What can cybercriminals do with your stolen information and how can you protect yourself from being a victim of this rising crime? Writing for Forbes, cybersecurity expert John Wilson of HelpSystems provides six steps to help guard against identity theft.

Originally published in Forbes Advisor

Excerpt:

“In my role as senior fellow for threat research at Agari by HelpSystems, I’ve explored hundreds of email inboxes used by online scammers. Many of these inboxes contain unemployment insurance claims filed under different names in just about every U.S. state.

Some of the inboxes show evidence of fraud against the IRS, Social Security and federal programs to provide Covid business loans, disaster assistance, small business loans and pandemic rental assistance. The Secret Service estimates as much as $100 billion in Covid relief money was stolen. Other sources put the total as high as $400 billion.

A relatively new twist on traditional identity theft is called synthetic identity fraud. A scammer starts with a stolen Social Security number but creates a made-up name, address and date of birth.

The fraudster then establishes credit with the fake ID, often by taking out a high-risk, high-interest loan. The scammer pays back the loan, to establish a credit history for the synthetic identity. After several cycles, the synthetic identity has good enough credit to apply for a stack of credit cards. The thief can now run up the cards and disappear.”

Read the full article here.