Are you worried because you accidentally gave out your personal information? This happens to a lot of people. Maybe you entered your info in a malicious website, responded to an email scam, mistakenly believed that the person on the phone was really from the bank, or maybe you were chatting with someone you thought you knew.
Whatever the circumstance that you’re in, it is important for you to stay vigilant and take the necessary steps to ensure that you can protect yourself in case somebody uses your information deceptively or to cause harm.
By giving out your personal information, you open yourself up to several risks. In this article, we will discuss the different threats involved when your personal details are compromised. We will also talk about the steps you can take to resolve the problem and how to protect yourself from this happening to you again.
What are the potential risks involved in giving out your personal details?
There are numerous risks involved when your personal information falls into the wrong hands. What exactly could be done by the wrongdoers will depend on the type of info you have given out and how much you disclosed.
The primary risk is being a victim of identity theft. Identity theft takes place when another person uses your identity to commit fraud. Identity thieves can use your identity to steal money from you by using your credit cards, accessing your financial accounts, or claiming your tax refund. They can also use your identity to commit a crime, get medical benefits, or to be employed.
Aside from identity theft, there are some other risks that could take place depending on the amount of information you gave out.
What could happen if I gave my Social Security Number to a scammer?
One of the most popular questions often asked online is “What can a scammer do with my name and phone number?”. Will the scammer be able to steal from me or steal my identity? What can the scammer access with just my phone number?
There are two scenarios that could possibly happen: first is when the scammer knows your name and phone number and second when the scammer actually has access to your phone number.
The first scenario is not as threatening as the second scenario but there are still potential dangers. You might not be worried about giving out your name and phone number because these are usually public details that can be found in a phone book or business cards. However, just because these details are available publicly does not mean that you should be complacent about giving your full name and phone number to just anyone.
Stalking is just one of the risks that you could encounter when you give out your full name and phone number online. For example, if you are chatting with a stranger you just met through a social networking site or a dating application, don’t trust easily by giving your full name and phone number because that person could start calling you up and even track you down through your phone number. The common victims of stalking are minors and females who get stalked by the people they meet online.
What if the person has access to your name and phone number? This usually happens when your phone gets stolen. Unfortunately, there are a lot of risks involved because the person who has access to your phone number can use it to access your online and financial accounts by resetting your password. Most of these accounts now use a two-factor authentication process which is often linked to your phone number so if someone has access to your phone number, resetting your passwords can be done.
What could happen if someone has my name and phone number?
If someone who’s not trustworthy gets hold of your Social Security Number, there are a number of ways that person can misuse your SSN. Below are just some of the following things that can be done with just your Social Security Number.
- Your Social Security Number can be used to open a new bank account and that person can open credit cards on that account without paying back the debt. This could damage your credit score.
- Your SSN could be used for employee-related identity fraud, where another person not authorized to work in the US could use your number to get employed.
- Your SSN could be used to commit a crime by giving your number to law enforcers if they are caught.
- The scammer could use your SSN to get your tax refund.
- Your SSN could be used to claim medical benefits and this could taint your personal medical records.
What happens if someone has my Credit Card Number?
If someone has access to your credit card or debit card number, it is possible for the person to use it to make purchases from your card. While some banks require multi-step authentication, there are other systems where these additional security measures are not required so purchases can go through.
Giving out further personal information like address, date of birth, passwords, etc.
As mentioned earlier, the severity of the risks will depend on how much information you revealed. The more details the scammer knows about you, the higher the risk. For example, if you give out your date of birth and your mother’s maiden name, these are two of the most commonly used security questions in many financial transactions. Scammers could then attempt to access your bank accounts and other online accounts.
Another risk that you should be aware of is that a scammer can use your personal information to hack your email and social media accounts. A lot of times, your email address is connected with many other online accounts like online banking, app stores, and even online payment platforms. Scammers can try changing your passwords in these accounts to gain access. If your online accounts have financial information, the scammers can steal money from you.
For example, if your Facebook account is linked to your credit card, a scammer who gains access to your Facebook account can use it to bankroll scam ad campaigns. These campaigns will advertise fake products to get people to buy non-existent items or to visit malicious websites.
Someone can also use your personal information to create a fake social media profile. They can even use your public picture available online. The scammer can use this fake profile to send out friend requests to people you know and extort money from them.
How to check if someone is using my identity?
Are you worried about another person using your identity? How will you know if you are a victim of identity theft? Check out these recommendations below.
Look for warning signs such as not getting your bills, being chased by debt collectors for debt that is not yours, being billed for medical services you did not use, etc.
Request for a copy of your credit report from the 3 credit bureaus and carefully check the entries. You can get a free copy of your credit report for free once a year at annualcreditreport.com. If you see any charges or entries that are not yours or you did authorize, you can dispute these entries to be removed.
Always check your credit card statement every billing cycle for inaccuracies or unfamiliar charges. If your bank allows you to view your credit card transactions online you may want to check it more regularly in case of fraudulent transactions. The earlier these are reported to your bank the easier it is to prevent further transactions and to ensure you are not responsible for the charges.
To see whether someone else is using your Social Security Number, Go to the my Social Security page of the Social Security website to check your account for any inaccuracies. Through this webpage, you will be able to check whether you are a victim of employee-related identity fraud.
What to do if you have been victimized by a scammer?
If you have been a victim of identity theft, you can go to the government’s one-stop website identitytheft.gov. This website provides a step-by-step guide on what you need to do to resolve the problem.
The website will guide you on how to:
- Report the fraud to the three major credit bureaus.
- Report the fraud to the local police authorities.
- Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Report the fraud to the IRS.
- Report the fraud to the companies involved where the identity theft took place.
Would I be liable for financial and non-financial transactions when someone misuses my identity?
In many cases, identity theft is often done to attempt to steal money from unsuspecting people. So, what if you become a victim of identity theft and money was taken out from your financial accounts? Will you be liable for these charges?
If your credit card was used to make unauthorized charges, you can usually recover the money as long as you report the fraud immediately or within the period set by the credit card issuer. Depending on your financial institution, there is typically a window of time where they will allow you to inform them of the fraudulent charges so they can have it canceled.
If you transferred money from your bank account to a scammer, this is much more difficult to recover. If the scammer has withdrawn the money, the chances of getting it back are very slim.
For other non-financial transactions, you would have to report to the proper authorities about the identity theft so you can clear your name. This case of identity fraud could taint your credit report, medical records, police records, tax information, and more. Therefore, you have to take the necessary steps to clear your name and your records. If you do not do so, the false information could affect your future transactions.
Tips on how to secure your personal information to avoid scammers
Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated when it comes to committing fraud. It is thus very important to become more vigilant when it comes to protecting your personal information.
Avoid giving out your personal details online especially to people you do not personally know. Some details that should be kept private include full name, address, social security numbers, phone number, passwords, birth date, work history, bank account information, driver’s license numbers, insurance policy numbers, credit status, passport information, loan numbers, credit/ debit card numbers, PIN numbers, and family members’ names.
If you can avoid it, don’t email your information as emails can be hacked. Don’t connect a credit card or a debit card with a high credit limit to your online accounts to avoid compromising them. Plus, always be wary of unfamiliar emails as these may be scam emails that were designed to hack accounts.
You can also consider signing up for identity theft protection plans for added security. These are monitoring and recovery services that could help you check whether your identity has been stolen and help you resolve the problem.
Installing anti-malware programs on your internet-connected devices is also a good idea. Just make sure to look for anti-virus programs that are reliable and have a good reputation in the industry.