The eight indicators of identity hacker and how to prevent it

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By Creative Media News

  • Identity theft reports to surpass 15 million by 2023
  • Indicators: unusual 2FA logins, streaming account errors, credit card tests
  • Also, watch for significant credit score changes, unsolicited correspondence, missing statements

Identity theft reports are rising in the US; by 2023, over 15 million people will have reported identity theft.

In a time when hackers can easily penetrate your phone’s security and obtain your passwords, there are eight subtle indicators that can help you thwart cybercriminals and protect your identity.

Experts claim that most identity theft protection services are ineffective because they don’t notify you when your finances, accounts, or credit score are at risk.

Presently, indications that someone is attempting to gain access to your personal information include fraudulent charges to your credit card statements, unsolicited email correspondence, and issues with your streaming accounts.

By becoming aware of the warning signs, one can acquire the knowledge necessary to safeguard an identity that may require months or even years to rectify.

Eight indicators 1
The eight indicators of identity hacker and how to prevent it

Identity fraud cost the American public $43 billion in 2017, including legal fees and the cost of settling fraudulent debt that the bank or merchant neither covered nor reimbursed, according to a recent study by the cybersecurity firm Javelin.

According to research, the average time consumers spent attempting to resolve identity fraud increased from six hours in 2022 to ten hours.

Suzanne Sando, principal analyst in fraud and security at Javelin, informed AARP that “that is an enormous increase.”

It may be due to the fact that we maintain a large number of accounts. This certainly contributes to the longer resolution time. ​ 

1. Unknown two-factor authentication logins

One likely possesses two-factor authentication if they utilize an online banking platform, a streaming service, or submit their taxes electronically.

This is an additional security measure that requires you to enter a code sent to your email, text, or authenticator app; however, unprompted two-factor authentication push notifications may indicate that an unauthorized user is attempting to access your accounts.

Receiving these unsolicited notifications could indicate that your identity has been compromised, at least in part, and that the sender may have the majority of the information required to access your accounts, given that the two-factor authentication code is typically accompanied by a password.

If you begin receiving unauthorized two-factor authentication (2FA) alerts, change your password and check your credit reports and online accounts to ensure nothing appears to have been compromised, as advised by LifeHacker.

2. Errors occurring on your streaming accounts

Signs that your streaming account may have been compromised include discovering music on your Netflix profile or logging into Spotify to find content you never intended to play or would not normally listen to, as well as unusually recommended television series and films.

This behavior might suggest an attempt to compromise your identity, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has.

Streaming accounts are arguably the most vulnerable because an unauthorized user could discover your complete name, address, email address, date of birth, and more by simply entering your password into the account settings.

“[Criminals] are aware that the majority of users reuse passwords across multiple accounts,” James E. Lee, identity theft resource center chief operating officer, told AARP.

According to Keeper Security, an international cybersecurity firm, this information would facilitate the assailant’s ability to compromise your identity and access your other online accounts.

3. Experiment with credit card expenses.

In an attempt to take your money and identity, hackers will often initiate test charges on your credit card. They do this to confirm the card’s functionality and assess your ability to detect the unauthorized outgoing payments.

A bodega or an e-commerce platform would receive the fees in nominal increments ranging from $1 to $10.

It is crucial to take immediate action when you notice an unauthorized charge on your credit card, according to Lisa Plaggemier, executive director of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, who spoke with USA Today. 

She further advised, “Begin by reviewing your recent transactions and contact the merchant to clarify the nature of the charge.”

When you notice these test charges, you must immediately freeze your account before contacting the bank to cancel the credit card, issue a new one, and start an investigation into the fraudulent activity.

4. Significant credit score variations

Professionals recommend that individuals routinely review their credit scores to ensure that they have not changed significantly.

A substantial shift in your score, surpassing a few points in either direction, strongly implies the compromise of your identity.

Your credit score fluctuates by a few points on a monthly basis; however, it should never fluctuate by such a significant amount.

A temporary increase in credit score indicates that someone has established new accounts on your behalf, which may temporarily improve your credit. However, once you max out the account and fail to make payments, your credit score will return to its previous level, making this improvement short-lived.

Commence the process of disputing the information with the credit reporting agency by providing an explanation of the perceived error. Additionally, lodge a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to request an investigation into the fraudulent activity.

5. Receiving unusual unsolicited correspondence

If you receive unsolicited email or junk mail, it could be a sign that your account is unintentionally receiving funds or that you’ve unintentionally signed up for distribution lists.

An additional indicator is the receipt of mail addressed to a different individual; this is referred to as “synthetic identity theft,” which occurs when your personal information is mixed with fabricated data to create a new identity.

If you notice this, check your credit reports to ensure that none of your personal accounts or information has been compromised.

6. Bank and credit card statements are absent.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation advises that the abrupt cessation of receiving bank and credit card statements and invoices via mail or email may indicate that an unauthorized individual has stolen your identity.

In order to obfuscate the outgoing payments or charges from your accounts, hackers will alter the mailing or email address associated with them.

Log in to verify that you still have access to your account. Additionally, alter your passwords and implement additional security measures, such as two-factor authentication or a verbal password.

If the organization’s fraud department receives any unauthorized payments or charges, get in touch with them.

Check to see if the email and mailing addresses linked to your account are still correct; if they have changed, you should assume that someone has compromised your identity.

7. Problems with credit cards

Your financial institution may have placed a hold or block on your account if they decline your credit card for a purchase.

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If the card was used to make an excessively large purchase or if there was an excessive amount of atypical activity, the bank may classify such transactions as dubious.

In the event that your card is not functioning, verify with the bank that no one has unauthorized access to your account. 

8. Tax concerns

Hackers frequently commit tax fraud, which entails assuming your identity and submitting your tax returns under the guise of a significantly higher income in order to obtain a more favorable refund.

Indicators that this has transpired include the IRS rejecting your tax return and notifying you that you have already submitted it; you receiving an unanticipated refund; or the IRS sending you unanticipated tax documents. 

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