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The consequences of identity theft on the Internet

Anyone who steals someone else's identity can quickly do a lot of damage. For this purpose, personal data such as name, date of birth, address, credit card or bank account numbers are used to register with an online service or to conclude contracts at third-party costs. Show complaints to consumer advice centers

  1. unauthorized subscriptions to video streaming services or dating portals,
  2. the unauthorized creation of chargeable mail accounts
  3. up to orders placed on behalf of the injured consumer via shopping platforms.

The consumers concerned usually only find out about identity theft when they receive invoices or collection letters or find unknown debits on their account.

The forms of identity abuse

The market guard teams in the responsible consumer centers have found numerous examples of the misuse of consumer data in their segments:

  • In a number of cases, unauthorized persons use the data of consumers, for example to Audio books or software shopping. The acquired audio books or license keys for software can then be resold by criminals.
  • Also paid streaming services are often booked in foreign names, as the cases in the early warning network show.
  • In other cases, strangers use the data of consumers to get subscriptions for expensive ones Online dating portals or premium mail accounts complete.
  • There are also cases of Direct debits to the mobile phone bill because consumers first passed on their cell phone number to an alleged Facebook friend, then received a PIN on their cell phone with which they unknowingly approved a payment and also communicated this to their alleged Facebook friend.
  • A variety of cases are also related to Purchases from online retailersmade on behalf of the unsuspecting consumer.
  • In some cases, consumers report that third parties, for example, have their Redeemed Payback points or presumably hacked their customer accounts on marketplaces and have shopped through their profile.
  • Unexpected contracts for Cell phone contracts also count as identity theft. Consumers found out about the fraud through welcome letters and payment requests from companies.

Personal data can get into the hands of criminals via phishing emails or company data leaks, among other things. For those affected, it often remains unclear how the perpetrators obtained their digital identities and to what extent these are now used or passed on.

Examples of impending damage

A consumer has never ordered anything online. He doesn't even have an email address. He is all the more astonished when a debt collection company requires him to pay for several online orders. The perpetrators only needed the name and address to order goods, which they then intercepted from the postman. Since the orders were placed on account and the consumer had no knowledge of the invoices, the online shop hired a debt collection company to collect the purchase price.

You can find information about debt collection on our special page.

A consumer receives a friend request from her friend via Facebook. In fact, the friend's account was hacked and is now being used by criminals. So the criminals pretend to be the friend and ask the consumer for help. The consumer is sent codes on her smartphone, which she is supposed to forward to the criminals via Facebook. These codes are payment codes that are later billed to the consumer's mobile phone bill. Damage: 900 euros.

Protection tip: If the list of friends is not public, a Facebook profile becomes useless for this scam. You can find information on, the online youth magazine of the NRW consumer center.

The consumer thinks he is testing a bank's video identification procedure for a market research institute. In reality, he opens a real account in his name, which is to be used for incoming funds from fake shops or similar scams. Damage: An impending charge of frivolous money laundering.

Read more about this scam in this article.


This is how you can defend yourself against identity theft

  • Fraudsters often get their victims' data via phishing, for example by email. Be Be careful when asking for sensitive data such as passwords, pins, bank details or credit card numbers. We describe how to recognize phishing in a separate article.
  • Make sure your passwords are secure. Use a separate password for each user account. You can find more on this topic here. You can also find detailed tips for secure passwords on the website of the Federal Office for Information Security.

Have criminals already transferred money from the account, act quickly and don't show false shame:

  • Inform Your bank and block the affected accounts and / or cards.
  • Definitely ask complaint at the police station.
  • Change Passwords affected accounts.
  • Against a possible Payment order an objection must be lodged within two weeks of delivery. In our article you can find out what a dunning notice or enforcement order is all about and what you should pay attention to.
  • In the Schufa and other credit bureaus, the identity theft can be reported.
  • Anyone who has had unauthorized direct debits through the bank or credit card company is often contacted by the provider and asked for payment. With our sample letter you can object and enclose a copy of the criminal complaint submitted as proof of identity theft.

If in doubt, seek advice from your consumer advice center. You can also file a complaint using the free complaint form above.

This content was created by the consumer centers North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate for the network of consumer centers in Germany.