Main Menu


Try searching for

Identity theft

Social security protection

Credit monitoring

Reputation management

Blog > Identity Theft > What Are the Types of Identity Theft?
 May 27, 2022

What Are the Types of Identity Theft?

Woman sitting in front of laptop dealing with ID theft

Identity theft is a serious business, and business is booming. Nearly 42 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2021, up a staggering 79% over 2020.  As every aspect of your life goes digital, your personal information lives on hundreds, if not thousands of servers. And with this comes all sorts of fraudulent ways to use that information, which can take a wrecking ball to your finances and reputation.

Here are the different types of identity theft to watch out for, and what to do if it happens to you.

Account takeover fraud

Account takeover happens when a fraudster gets your log-in credentials, then logs in and uses the account as you would, to purchase items, transfer funds, even gain access to additional accounts.

What to do:

  • Immediately change your passwords.
  • Contact customer service for each account compromised.
  • Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting all three credit reporting agencies. This can help prevent identity thieves from opening brand-new accounts in your name, as most lenders need to review your credit report before approving an account.

Synthetic identity theft

Synthetic ID theft is the creation of a new, fictitious identity using both valid and fabricated elements, such as a valid Social Security number (SSN), with a fake name, date of birth, address, etc.

Once this has been achieved, synthetic identity thieves can get credit cards, bank loans, mobile devices, and all manner of retail credit accounts.

What to do:

  • Contact law enforcement, and let your financial institutions know you’ve been victimized by a synthetic fraud breach.
  • Monitor your credit report for any discrepancies following the breach.
  • Freeze your credit, if the theft was a severe one.

Online shopping fraud

Online shopping fraud is when a thief hacks into your online accounts and makes purchases using your saved payment information. This type of theft is on the rise with 2021 seeing over $21 billion in loses related to fraudulent online shopping.

Beware of using an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network in a public place, like a coffee shop. Hackers can set up seemingly legitimate networks with the intention of stealing the information of those who connect. Another way a thief will steal your information is by compromising the website itself, or by redirecting users to a phony website.

What to do:

  • Immediately change your passwords.
  • Contact your credit card company or payment platform to report the fraud—you may be able to get your money back.
  • File a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Warn others—most social media platforms have options for reporting suspected scams.

Tax identity theft

Tax identity theft is when someone files your taxes and sends the tax refund to their address. You can detect this type of fraud by finding out your taxes have already been filed.
The best way to avoid tax identity theft is to keep your personally identifiable information (PII) safe.

What to do:

  • Contact the IRS. You may need to file a fraud claim and receive a PIN to use on future tax returns.
  • Review your credit reports and consider placing a freeze on them.  If someone has filed your tax return, they already have vital pieces of your personal information.

Medical identity theft

This happens when someone uses another person’s medical data in order to get medical services. If someone receives medical care under your name, you may be liable for the debt accrued for the care the thief received.

What to do:

  • Review monthly statements from your doctors or health insurance provider for unfamiliar charges.
  • If you see any, report them to your insurance company.
  • If you start getting bills for medical services you didn’t receive, call the provider and dispute them.

Child identity theft

Most children under 18 don’t have credit reports, so it’s possible to open fraudulent accounts in their name. Victims of child identity theft may not learn of the fraud until they apply for credit cards of their own.
What to do:

  • Check with the three nationwide credit bureaus to see if your child actually has credit reports.
  • If so, freeze them, and report the child identity theft to the FTC at

Social Security number fraud

For a thief, your SSN is the skeleton key to your entire identity, which will then be unlocked for all types of fraud.

What to do:

  • For starters, do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet. Store it in a safe place and shred any documents containing your SSN before throwing them away.
  • If your SSN has been stolen, file an identity theft report with the FTC.
  • You can also call the fraud hotline managed by the Social Security Administration (SSA): 1-800-269-0271.
  • Keep a close eye on your credit reports, and freeze your credit if need be.
  • If you want to apply for a new SSN, you can go to ‘My Social Security’ account online, or visit an SSA office near you.

Debit card fraud/credit card fraud

These are two of the most common identity theft types, and often happen in the wake of a lost or stolen wallet. The result: thieves rack up charges, get cash advances and stick you with the bill.

What to do:

  • Cancel any card that has been lost or stolen. Your card provider may not hold you accountable for unauthorized charges.
  • Review your monthly card statements, as well as your credit reports, which you can obtain for free at

Driver’s license identity fraud

If you have lost your wallet, chances are you’ll first worry about your debit and credit cards. Don’t forget your driver’s license, which can be a carte blanche to your other information, as well as a get-out-of-jail-free card to a fraudster who flashes your license as ID.

What to do:

  • Be sure to file a police report.
  • Contact your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
  • Register a fraud alert with all three national credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Home title fraud

Home title fraud is one of the fastest-growing cyber scams in the country.  It occurs when someone obtains the title of your property and changes ownership from your name to theirs. The fraudster can then secure as many loans as possible using your equity as collateral.

What to do:

  • Periodically check your home. information with your county’s deed office.
  • If you are the victim of title fraud, file an identity theft report with your local police department.
  • Resolve all fraudulent activity on your credit reports and freeze them.

Mortgage fraud

Mortgage fraud is not so much different than home title fraud. A thief gains access to your mortgage account number and uses it to take out a home equity credit line, a second mortgage, or execute a wire transfer fraud.

What to do:

  • File an identity theft report with both your local police department and the FTC.
  • Check your credit reports.
  • Add an extra layer of security with your bank, and any real estate agent involved with a property purchase or sale.

Mail identity theft

This type of fraud has grown increasingly sophisticated over the years, most notably with the theft of paper checks, which are altered, digitized, and sold on the dark web. Scamsters are also on the lookout for credit and debit cards, or any mail that might contain personal information.

What to do:

  • Secure your mailbox. Don’t leave an unlocked box on a public street.
  • If you’ve been the victim of mail theft or tampering, you can report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-8455.

Biometric identity theft

This may sound like science fiction, but it’s quite real—there are a myriad of devices that use facial and/or voice recognition. A thief can use your image to break into your phone, access your digital wallet, and all the rest of your information.

What to do:

  • Make sure your biometric data is stored safely by the company that requests it.
  • Keep your software updated. This will add new security features that will help keep you a step ahead of hackers.

Estate identity theft

This occurs when the personal information of a dead person is used to transfer money or open accounts.

What to do:

  • Make sure the three nationwide credit bureaus place a “death notice” on the deceased person’s credit reports.

Employment identity theft

This is when fraudsters hijack your identity to get a job or pass a background check.

What to do:

  • Visit the federal government’s E-Verify site to view all the employers who have checked your records. If there are any unfamiliar ones, you very well be a victim of ID theft.
  • Check your credit reports, credit card statements and go from there.

Lost or stolen passport

A valid passport number is a high-value item on the dark web. Fraudsters can get top dollar for false travel documents.

What to do:

  • If your passport number has been compromised, immediately report it as lost or stolen to the U.S. State Department. This will subsequently invalidate it so that it can no longer be used for international travel.
  • Check your credit reports, credit card statements, all the usual suspects to see if your compromised passport number has led to additional ID fraud.

Senior identity fraud

Identity theft is a common danger to us all but the elderly are particularly vulnerable to fraudsters and cyber-crooks.

What to do:

  • Stay vigilant with vulnerable senior’s credit. You may want to consider a credit monitoring service, as you are able to receive automated alerts for suspicious activity.
  • Put a security freeze on their credit, if they don’t require regular access to it.

Criminal identity theft

Of course, all ID theft is criminal, but this refers to a situation when someone is arrested and presents your information as their own. Most likely, you won’t know about this until the consequences come home—a mysterious speeding ticket arrives in the mail, or, worse when a judge issues a bench warrant for your arrest.

What to do:

  • Limit the amount of personal information you share online
  • If you are the victim of a larger ID fraud, contact law enforcement immediately.
  • Check your credit reports.
  • Check your credit card statements.
  • Check your bank statements.

Shield yourself

IDShield gives you best-in-class full-spectrum protection for everything listed above and more.  If there is a breach, our team of in-house Oklahoma licensed private investigators will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes, to restore your identity to its pre-theft status with our full-service guarantee.


Find answers to our most frequently asked questions.

What is the most common form of identity theft?

Financial ID theft is one of the most common forms of ID theft, though there are many variations on that theme, as listed above. We monitor all aspects of your financial profile 24/7, which is just one reason why IDShield is the industry standard.

What is an example of identity theft?

One example would be a cyber-hack of your credit card information and subsequent use for fraudulent purchases in your name. Understanding and recognizing ID theft is essential to maintaining your credit and reputation.

What are the first signs of identity theft?

Charges on your credit card or bank statements that you don’t recognize are common first signs of identity theft, though it’s important to monitor all aspects of your digital profile.  This is why IDShield offers smart protection for all the ways you connect.

IDShield is a product of PPLSI, a provider of access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.

Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist, and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.    


Related Post

Couple reviewing their home title while looking concerned.

What Is Home Title Theft and Ways to Avoid It

Housing valuations continue to climb, which means home equity has soared for homeowners… unless someone commits identity theft to steal that equity. Home equity theft, deed theft and title theft are on the rise, and many real estate and government officials fear it...