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Millions are hit with identity theft around the world each year, and most people are unaware just how many unusual ways their identities can actually be stolen. Unfortunately, these methods are growing, which means you should know how to protect yourself. Here are four weird ways your identity can be stolen and what you can do about it.
Many are unaware that medical identity theft even exists, and it’s certainly an odd way to have your identity stolen. Instead of going shopping, identity thieves use your Social Security number and health insurance information to collect health services and products. This can be costly, with 65 percent of victims paying more than $13,000 in costs in the case of medical identity theft. Always monitor your medical records and health insurance bills, and ensure that you only give important medical and personal information to trusted health providers.
You are required to file your taxes every year on April 15, but you might not know that the IRS doesn’t examine your return against your employer’s information until July. In that time period, identity thieves can use your Social Security number to file a fake tax return under your name, essentially collecting your refund before you do. To avoid this, you should file your return early and sign up for a secure personal PIN number through the IRS website.
Ransomware is a threat to individuals and businesses alike. When you accidentally download this virus, it encrypts your entire computer and will only allow you to access your information once you’ve paid a ransom through the virus program. In the meantime, criminals are likely to access your personal information as well.
The best way to avoid this type of theft is to avoid downloading email attachments, back up your computer, and ensure you have the latest anti-virus protection. To date, computer specialists are unfortunately unsure how to resolve this issue without paying the ransom.
Even with plenty of weird ways to steal your information, people still don’t expect their identity to fall into the wrong hands while they sit in a cafe or wait at an airport terminal. Unfortunately, WiFi is usually highly vulnerable, and an unsecured network can easily be spied on, allowing thieves to see all of your browser activity. Try to use only secured WiFi networks with WPA encryption, and avoid entering personal or financial information when using public WiFi.
Ultimately, there are plenty of strange ways for your identity to be stolen; awareness of these new identity theft methods is your first step in fighting back.