These terms are often used together, but it’s good to understand them both, as they might call for slightly different measures to protect yourself.
Identity theft is when an online scammer steals valuable, personal information — like a Social Security number — to make purchases, open new accounts, or receive a tax refund. There are steps you can take to make sure your information stays secure to prevent identity theft. Financial fraud, on the other hand, is when someone does something illegal to steal money or some other valuable assets from you.
Pro Tip: To protect yourself from a scammer from using your SSN to file a tax return, you can request what’s known as an IP PIN from the IRS. While in the past it was only made available to victims of identity theft, starting in 2021 anyone can request an IP PIN. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft, you can report it and get help with next steps on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Identitytheft.gov.