Social media

How to Protect Yourself From New Identity Theft Trends

NBC 7 Responds looks at the new report from San Diego's Identity Theft Resource Center and how you can protect yourself

NBC Universal, Inc.

Identity theft can destroy your credit, leave you with debt, or even send legal trouble your way. A new report from the Identity Theft Resource Center says 2021 was a record year for identity theft, fraud and scams.

"We're in what we call a 'scam-demic,'" said James Lee, the ITRC's Chief Operating Officer. "We're like the canary in the coal mine. We see the new scams and the new kinds of cyber attacks."

This is the first "Trends in Identity" report, which shows the way frauds, scams, and schemes try to steal our personal information. The biggest takeaway this year? Social media accounts are under attack.

"So where we're seeing that right now is social media accounts," said Lee. "Social media takeover, like Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn. Literally a 1,000% increase."

Lee says a big part of that is because of how much someone can do with your social media account.

"It usually happens when you click on a link because you think it's from a friend," said Lee. "But what's really happened is your friend clicked on a link just like it, and everyone in their social media circle, now the scammer has that information and it goes to all of their friends, then all of their friends."

Also, scammers can try to take over accounts that belong to small businesses or influencers, then take that account's revenue for themselves. They also might try to sell it back to you because of the history involved with that account.

But once someone steals your personal information, what do they do with it? Lee says they are starting to see more new bank and credit card accounts be opened, instead of going after your existing accounts.

"That's harder to catch," said Lee. "You may not find out about it until you get a notice from the IRS that says you owe taxes on whatever money was in that account."

Lee says these new accounts are often where the money from unemployment or small business loan fraud goes.

"That money had to go somewhere," said Lee. "These were set up by criminals to hide that money until they could convert it to cryptocurrency or transfer it out of the country."

So what can you do? Lee says first and foremost, don't click on suspicious links.

"Clicking on those suspicious links is what creates so many of these social media account problems," said Lee.

He also says once those accounts are taken away from you, they are almost impossible to get back. So consider using strong passwords and two-factor authentication to help keep them under your control.

Next, freeze your credit and your child's credit. It will stop people from opening accounts with your information. Do that by contacting Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion directly.

"That way if you do click that link and your information is compromised, it prevents new accounts that would impact your credit," said Lee. "And freeze your children's credit at the same time to protect their information from being compromised as well."

Contact Us