You’ve probably heard many times before that malware can be used to commit identity theft. You may also already know that identity theft is about criminals collecting enough personal information to fool people and computer systems into thinking they are someone else?

But why would you want to pretend to be another person? Because there’s a lot of money to be made. If you are unfortunate enough to become a victim of identity theft, here are some of the things hackers will do.

Drain your bank account

If criminal gangs can steal your logon details, they will immediately try to empty your bank account. Rather than visiting a branch of your bank, they will usually transfer the money electronically – often to another country.

The hackers will change the contact details on your account so that bank statements are sent to a PO box – again, usually somewhere abroad. They will also update the phone number to ensure that all calls are answered by one of the gang – and to prevent you from realising anything is wrong.

Once they have taken control of your account, the criminals will probably make a small test transaction. This ensures that everything works and that they are not caught by the bank’s anti-theft systems. If the test completes successfully, they will proceed to take every last penny from your account.

Take out credit

Having successfully defeated the bank’s security systems, the hackers may try to steal even more money from the bank. They may use your account details and identity to apply for a credit card or bank loan.

A loan will be paid directly into your account – so they will transfer that money in the same way. If they apply for a credit card, they will use it to make cash advances and withdrawals, or to purchase expensive goods for resale.

password manager Panda Security

Purchase expensive goods to resell

Once they have run out of opportunities to access direct cash, criminals will continue to use your identity to keep stealing. They will take out store credit or hire/lease goods in your name to make big ticket purchases.

High value items like TVs, computers and mobile phones are easy to resell; another way of turning credit into cash. Criminals will simply buy a new iPhone, sell it on eBay, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace and pocket the money.

And when they are finally finished?

When you’re a victim of identity theft, you probably don’t realise until your payment card is declined. Occasionally you may even be visited by bailiffs and debt collectors looking to recover losses from store credit.

The real criminals are long gone however – and because they are based abroad, they stand a good chance of escaping prosecution.

Protecting against identity theft is generally a case of being smarter your personal information. Take a look at this article for 7 practical tips that will Keep Your Identity Safe.

And as always – make sure you have anti-malware protection installed on your devices to help make the job easier.