Scammers are known to go after your wallet, but there’s another thing they want, and it’s all about you. Why are identities so in demand for scammers?
Scam awareness comes in many forms, whether it’s watching over your emails and SMS with trepidation, being overly cautious about the links you click (not a bad thing), or just taking every communication you get from randoms with a grain of salt. The web can be tricky, so being on guard can be especially useful.
Scams come in all shapes and sizes, often in phishing attempts, but there are some pretty obvious targets that occur again and again.
Your wallet is one of them, because scammers clearly want access to that. Not the physical things, but rather the digital entity that holds all the funds. If they can get the details to unlock this part of your life, they’ll surely try.
Another big target is you, or more specifically, your identity, an entity which holds enormous power for scammers intending to rip off a system and leave you footing the bill, and the blame.
“Identities are what makes us unique, and really are the key to having ownership over many areas and milestones in our lives,” said Tim Falinski, Managing Director of Trend Micro in the Asia Pacific region.
“They allow us to open bank accounts and be in control of our finances, get a passport and travel the world, and stay connected to others through mobile and Internet access – which is why we recently found that more than three-quarters of Australians are worried they will become the victim of identity theft,” he said.
What your identity can open
If you’re curious why your identity is in so much demand, you really only have to think of what doors it opens in your life.
Your email, for starters. That’s a service that relies on your identity, and while your password might be complex, if a scammer has access to the details of your identity, they might be able to lock you out from your email account.
Identity uses go beyond mere email though. They’re used for social media, for applications, and even for your mobile service. With the right information, a scammer might be able to port your phone number to one of their own services without doing too much, getting in the way of one of the forms of multi-factor authentication.
There’s also the obvious connection your identity has to bank accounts, credit cards, and other monetary services.
Your identity is a big deal, and cyber criminals are hankering for it simply because of the things they can do with it. It even comes with a cost, because your identity can actually make money for criminals seeking to sell access to it in the first place.
“When it comes to the monetary value of different pieces of personal information to cybercriminals, passports can cost around $50 USD on the dark web, drivers licenses just under this amount, and credit cards around the $40 USD mark,” said Falinski.
“We also know that highly sensitive information such as medical records are considered to be the ‘goldmine’ of identity data, sometimes costing up to 10 times more than credit card details.”
Your identity demands protection
Whether a scammer has an interest in selling your identity on the black market to the highest bidder or has plans to take advantage of those details for their own nefarious needs, it’s pretty clear that protecting your identity forms a high priority.
There’s an obvious risk to finances, but identity theft can go deeper, making it difficult to recover in the long term, and causing a serious headache for people.
“Keeping our identities safe is crucial not only from a financial perspective, but also to avoid the emotional and often legal impacts of being the victim of identity theft,” said Falinski.
“Depending on the severity of the situation, it can take months – even years – to resolve fraud cases and attempt to regain any monetary losses.”
What all this translates to is a need to be more vigilant when we see scams, and more aware. It circles back to that need to be more cautious when you’re reading emails, checking SMS, and even receiving the odd phone call designed to throw you off your guard.
While anyone can be fooled by a scam, choosing to not let your guard down gives you a greater chance of emerging from a scamming attempt unscathed, and to leave with your identity in tact, rather than on the floor of an unknown, unnamed marketplace.