Identity Theft 101: Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft
What is identity theft?
Identity theft results in your personal and confidential information falling into the wrong hands and being used for purchases and all kinds of fraudulent activity without your permission.
The scary thing is that most of us willingly provide our personal information online and it is easy for cyber criminals to steal it. When you consider that we are all using technology and the internet these days, this can happen to anyone. On the other hand, however, identity theft can be prevented with some basic knowledge, Planning and awareness.
How does identity theft come about?
A data breach occurs when someone gains unauthorized access to a company’s data. In the event of such a breach, names, social security numbers, and credit card information are among the most common pieces of information stolen. While it’s nearly impossible to completely protect information from a data breach, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk.
You can surf the Internet safely by sticking to well-known websites, especially websites with security certificates. The problem occurs when you enter your information on an unsecured or compromised website. In this case, you could give your data directly to a thief.
Fortunately, modern browsers usually warn us when we are trying to access risky websites.
Marketplaces on the Dark Web
Stolen information often ends up on the darknet. It’s a hidden network of websites that normal browsers can’t access. The stolen information is usually sold to someone with potentially criminal intent.
The dark web is a refuge for scammers as they use special software when they visit to disguise their identity and activities. Your information is then available to everyone when it lands on the dark web marketplace.
Malware is malicious software designed to cause anarchy on a computer once it is installed. Cyber criminals can use it to steal your data or spy on your online activities.
Credit card theft
Credit card theft is one of the most common forms of identity theft. It usually happens through data breaches, physical theft of your card, card skimmer, and also online retail accounts that have your card details stored online.
Phishing and spam attacks
Thieves usually get your personal information through electronic means of communication such as email, and this communication usually looks legitimate. The main aim of these emails is to trick you into providing your personal information.
For example, you will receive an email that looks like it came from your bank and there might be a link in that email that takes you to a fake website that looks exactly like your bank’s website. If you enter any information on this website, like credit card information, social security number, or even a username and password, it goes straight into the hands of thieves.
So if something doesn’t seem right about an email, delete it as it could be an attempted identity theft.
When you use your laptop or phone while connected to a public Wi-Fi network, such as a home or office room. For example, at airports or in cafes, you must be careful when entering it, as hackers also use these networks.
If you enter personal information such as your bank or credit card number on a public Wi-Fi network, it can be intercepted by a hacker on the same network and you become another statistic.
Criminals use skimming devices by placing them over a card reader at gas stations or ATMs without looking suspicious. As soon as a debit or credit card is swiped, the information on the magnetic stripe of the card is read and either stored or transmitted.
So while difficult, try to make sure the device you are swiping on is secure, or if you are giving your card to someone to swipe, keep your eyes on your card.
Tips to protect against identity theft
It may seem almost impossible these days to completely and safely protect your private information, but there are ways to protect yourself from falling victim to identity theft. Here are some key tips to help you stay safe online:
- Make sure that you destroy all private bank statements with confidential information, especially those with bank and credit card details.
- Always carefully review your credit card statements before paying the bill to make sure you understand all of your purchases, merchants, and locations of transactions.
- You can place a security lock or a fraud warning on your credit report account. The security lock will prevent anyone from accessing your credit report. However, companies you currently do business with that already have legitimate access to your report will retain their access. The freezing doesn’t affect your credit score so everything is fine. The fraud warning is valid for 90 days and instructs a creditor to contact you first before granting credit on your behalf in case it is someone else using your credentials.
- Never lose sight of your credit card. If you can’t see your card, it’s better to pay cash. You don’t want your map to be skimmed out of sight.
- Ask to remove your name from the hit lists of call centers by registering yourself in the national Do-Not-Call register. Also turn off all subscriber lists, credit card requests and reduce junk mail.
- Try to make your passwords complicated as it is difficult to hack a complex password. Security researchers found that only 0.03% of 550 million passwords use spaces. They are valid characters and increase your password strength.
- Try to keep your antivirus software up to date. Always make sure that you are running the latest version on your devices.
When you look at all of these ways to steal personal information, you almost shy away from going online and protecting your information seems doomed. Fortunately, none of this is so bad. Stick to the basics like you mostly do anyway.
You don’t go around telling people your bank details or showing your credit card or bank statements to anyone who asks for it. Do the same online. Be careful and careful with what you type online, just like in real life.