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When you think of identity theft, you probably picture someone stealing your Social Security number or hacking your email account. But unfortunately, it’s much farther reaching than that.
Common Types of Fraud
Sadly, fraud is all too common in our world today. From voter fraud to bank account fraud, Americans' personal information is more vulnerable than ever.
Knowing the different types of fraud and following these tips to avoid being a victim can help you protect your identity.
The definition of mail fraud is simple: it’s any fraudulent activity that involves the use of postage mail. This could mean sending a letter to try and scam money or personal information from someone, stealing and opening someone else’s mail, or using chain letters to collect money or items.
Basically, if mail is used at any point in the fraud process, it’s considered mail fraud.
How to protect yourself from mail fraud
The best way to guard against mail fraud is to make sure a letter is legitimate before responding to it. If there’s a phone number printed on what looks like a piece of official communication, verify it’s actually the phone number of the company involved and not a fake one.
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A good rule of thumb when mailing a letter that includes personal information such as your bank account number or Social Security number is to take it directly to the post office so it can’t be stolen out of your mailbox.
Make sure you don’t leave mail out in your mailbox for too long! If you know you’ll be away for a while, consider temporarily stopping your mail service or asking a neighbor to get it for you until you’re back in town.
Driver’s License Fraud
You need your driver’s license for a lot of things: to board a plane, to open a bank account, and of course, to legally drive! It’s no wonder then that some people try to steal a driver’s license so they can do all of these things under a different name—yours.
If someone has been issued a driver’s license in your name, they can completely ruin your reputation without you even realizing it! Of course, traffic violations are a concern, but you should be more worried about them committing worse offenses in your name. If the scammer happens to live in your state, you might run into trouble when it comes time to renew your license.
How to protect yourself from driver's license fraud
When you discover someone has a fraudulent driver’s license in your name, contact your state DMV to get it shut down right away. You’ll also want to monitor your credit report to make sure the thief isn’t using your information for other types of fraud too.
Health Care Fraud
Health care/medical fraud happens when an individual, insurance provider, or medical office misuses insurance information for their own personal gain. This can impact you in a major way if a criminal gains access to your health insurance information and uses it on their own medical care! The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association estimates that health care fraud costs the industry tens of billions of dollars each year!(1)
How to protect yourself from health care fraud
To avoid this type of fraud, stay on top of all your medical bills, insurance claims and personal information. It’s important to check any statements you receive from your health insurance provider or your doctor’s office. If you notice any services listed that you didn’t receive, contact your insurance provider immediately to report the issue.
Debit and Credit Card Fraud
When a thief gets access to your debit or credit card number, plain and simple, it’s fraudulent activity. This can happen when the card number or the physical card itself is stolen.
How to protect yourself from debit or credit card fraud
We recommend monitoring your banking account on a weekly basis. That way you’ll catch any unauthorized charges on your bank or credit card statements and can contact the card issuer right away to start the clean-up process.
Guard your cards carefully to make sure no one steals your numbers. Chip cards are more secure than those with only the magnetic strip, so if you haven’t already made the switch, now is a good time to do it.
You should also be cautious about using ATMs anywhere other than your bank. Hackers can sometimes tamper with these third-party ATMs with devices called skimmers that steal your information.
And remember: never store your card numbers online. Instead, consider using a service like PayPal to avoid inputting your debit card number on a third-party website when online shopping.
Bank Account Takeover Fraud
One of the worst types of fraud to clean up is when a thief gets access to your bank account. This can happen pretty easily just by someone stealing a check out of your mailbox, getting ahold of your account info through an email scam, or (in some extreme cases) using malware to gain access to all of your personal information.
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This type of fraud can completely drain your bank account if you don’t act quickly—and you might never get that money back. Be sure to monitor your account statements on a regular basis and keep an eye out for any transfers you didn’t authorize.
How to protect yourself from bank account takeover fraud
It should go without saying, but never log in to your bank account from unsecured Wi-Fi, and always check to make sure it’s actually your bank’s website you’re logging into instead of a scam site built to look like the real thing.
Stolen Tax Refund Fraud
During tax season, you’ll hear a lot about the importance of filing your taxes early. Why? Part of the reason is to avoid tax fraud! This type of fraud is known as stolen refund fraud, and it happens when someone else receives your refund by stealing your Social Security number and filing your taxes themselves. By the time you send in your real return, it’s rejected by the IRS because you’ve “already filed.”
It sounds crazy, but this kind of identity theft happens more often than you’d think—actually, it’s one of the top scams the IRS encounters each year.(2)
How to protect yourself from stolen tax refund fraud
So, what’s a law-abiding taxpayer to do? Be vigilant about who and where you give your personal information. Play it safe and use security software on your computer. And don’t ever carry around your Social Security card or anything with your Social Security number on it—including your W-2! Keep it all in a safe place
This made a lot of headlines during the 2016 election, but what does it actually mean? A lot of things! Voter fraud is a broad term used to describe any kind of illegal tampering with the voting process—things like voting twice, voting under a false identity (like someone who has passed away), voting as a felon, and buying or selling votes.
How to protect yourself from voter fraud
Here’s the thing about this type of fraud: it’s hard to protect yourself against it, but it’s also pretty rare that your identity will be stolen for this purpose. If you suspect you’re a victim of voter fraud, go ahead and report it to the United States Department of Justice.
This one is exactly how it sounds; internet fraud happens when someone uses the internet as a tool to take advantage of someone else through fraud. The most common ways of doing this are things like data breaches, email account compromise (EAC), malware and phishing. Online internet schemes steal millions of dollars from victims each year.(3)
How to protect yourself from internet fraud
You can help keep malware and other identity stealing viruses at bay by staying up to date with your anti-virus software on your computer and mobile device. When it comes to phishing scams, be on guard anytime you see an email asking you for personal information. And always read and re-read links to make sure you’ve been directed to the official website and not a scam site.
While all of these types of fraud can happen to anyone, elderly people are targets for even more fraudulent activity specific to their age group. They’re generally known for being more trusting, good-natured and kind-hearted people, leaving them more susceptible to types of fraud like phone scams or wire transfer fraud. Many scammers call offering lottery winnings, sweepstake prizes, or even health care services. These false promises help them gain access to financial and personal information.
How to protect yourself from elder fraud
Elderly people can also be less likely to keep an eye on their bank account information. So by the time they discover what happened to all their money, it’s too late. If you’re seeking peace of mind for the older loved ones in your life, consider getting them to sign up for an identity theft monitoring service with Zander Insurance. They’ll help them stay alert of any suspicious activity on their accounts.
Don’t Be a Victim of Fraud!
Sometimes it can feel like you’re just a sitting duck waiting for these types of fraud to hit you. Instead of living in fear, be proactive!
Take steps now to protect yourself from many common types of fraud with identity theft protection from Zander Insurance!