Identity theft is a rapidly growing concern worldwide. The advancements in technology have not just simplified our lives but also presented a rich playground for cybercriminals. In this guide, we delve into the most common types of identity theft — detailing what they are, how they happen, and how you can protect yourself against them.


Imagine waking up one day to find your bank account drained, your credit cards maxed out, and you are left with a credit score in shambles. Scary thought, right? That’s the devastating reality for millions of people every year who become victims of identity theft. It’s a crime that can seriously damage your finances, reputation, and peace of mind.

Knowledge is power, and understanding how identity theft happens can go a long way in helping you avoid falling victim. We’ve partnered with McAfee+ to bring you this comprehensive guide. Keep reading to arm yourself with the information you need to stay safe.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a type of fraud where a person’s personal data is stolen and used without their permission, typically for monetary gain. The stolen information could include Social Security numbers, bank account details, credit card numbers, and more. Once obtained, cybercriminals can use this data to commit fraud, such as making purchases or opening new accounts in your name.

The effect of identity theft can be far-reaching, from damaging your credit to impacting your medical records. It’s not just individuals who can be targeted; businesses can also fall prey to identity theft, leading to significant financial loss and harm to their reputation.

Identity Theft: A Growing Concern

According to reports, identity theft cases have seen a dramatic increase during the pandemic. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the situation and the fact that more and more people are working remotely, shopping online, and using digital platforms for transactions.

The good news is that you’re not powerless against these threats. With some proactive steps and help from industry leaders like McAfee+, you can protect your personal information and reduce the risk of identity theft.

5 Common Types of Identity Theft

1. Financial Identity Theft

Financial identity theft is perhaps the most common type of identity theft. It involves an unauthorized person gaining access to and using another person’s financial information. The thief might open bank accounts, take out loans, or make transactions in the victim’s name, causing financial havoc for the unsuspecting individual.

Protecting your financial information is crucial to avoid this type of theft. Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity. Consider adding a fraud alert or freeze on your credit reports, and use a reliable identity theft protection service like McAfee+.

2. Medical Identity Theft

Medical identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to obtain medical care, buy drugs, or submit fake billings to your health insurer. This can lead to erroneous entries in your medical records and could potentially affect your health care or insurance coverage.

Be vigilant about who has access to your medical records. Always verify the identity of anyone who requests your medical information. Moreover, review any medical bills or insurance statements carefully to ensure all information is accurate.

3. Criminal Identity Theft

Criminal identity theft occurs when someone commits a crime under your name. If they are arrested and provide your personal details, you may end up with a criminal record. You might also start receiving summonses for crimes you haven’t committed, which can be frightening and confusing.

To protect against criminal identity theft, safeguard your personal information and monitor any changes to your public records. If you receive a summons or other legal notices for unfamiliar crimes, contact law enforcement immediately. Employing security measures through McAfee+ can also help you ward off potential risks.

4. Synthetic Identity Theft

Synthetic identity theft involves the creation of a new, fake identity using a combination of real and fabricated information. The thieves can then open fraudulent accounts and conduct illegal activities using this fake identity. It is more difficult to detect because the fraudulent activity doesn’t show up on the victim’s credit report.

One of the ways to avoid being a victim of synthetic identity theft is by shredding any physical documents that contain your personal information before discarding them. Online, consider using an identity protection service like McAfee+ to help ensure you’re adequately protected.

5. Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft is when a thief uses a child’s Social Security number to commit fraud. Since children generally have no credit history, this type of theft can go undetected for years. The identity thief can create a synthetic identity or open new credit accounts in the child’s name.

Parents can protect their children from identity theft by not sharing their child’s Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. It’s also recommended to check if your child has a credit report close to their 16th birthday. If one exists, and your child has not been using credit, it could be an indication of identity theft.

How to Protect Yourself

Preventing identity theft can be a challenging task, but it’s not impossible. Key steps include safeguarding your personal information, using secure networks, regularly checking your financial accounts and medical records for any unexpected changes, and using strong, unique passwords. Additionally, leveraging the benefits of identity theft protection services like McAfee+ can significantly bolster your defense strategy.

To learn more about safeguarding your information, visit the McAfee Learn section for more resources. These educational materials can help understand the intricacies of privacy and protection in today’s digital world.

The issue of identity theft is a growing global concern, and knowledge is indeed the best defense. By understanding different types of identity theft, how they occur, and how to protect yourself, you can reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Remember, staying vigilant and employing reliable protection services like McAfee+ are your best bets against these malicious threats.

Stay safe, stay vigilant, and together, we can combat identity theft.