Cybercrimes are at an all-time high. Criminals of the World Wide Web exploit internet users’ personal information for their own benefits. Among all types of cybercrimes, identity theft takes the top spot. Let’s take a look at what identity theft is and how you can avoid it.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft, also known as identity fraud, is a crime committed by an imposter procuring someone’s personally identifiable information (PII), such as passwords, Social Security numbers (SSN), driver’s license numbers and bank account numbers, in order to impersonate them.
This information can then either be sold on the dark web or used to:
- Buy things with your credit cards
- Get new credit cards in your name
- Open a phone, electricity or gas account in your name
- Steal your tax refund
- Use your health insurance to get medical care
How does identity theft can happen to you
Phishing happens when thieves try to trick you into sharing your financial information pretending to be legitimate employees of a company over calls, e-mails or texts.
Unsafe internet connections
When you use free Wi-Fi, it’s possible to get connected to the same internet network as a criminal, making purchases online and logging in to your accounts is equal to handing over all your information to the thief.
Unsecure mailboxes are easy to break into. If you have any sensitive information like your credit card statements, tax forms and SSN available in your mailbox, it becomes easily attainable.
Skilled hackers can hack any major organization’s system and access all confidential data. Even with high security, many large companies have fallen prey to data breaches resulting in the leak of customers’ sensitive information.
Importance of theft prevention measures
Identity thefts don’t just cause a financial loss, they also greatly impact you psychologically. The initial shock that comes with experiencing a huge loss and the stress caused by whether you would recover your money takes a toll on you.
Identity theft can leave a criminal record on your name, affect your credit, slow down tax refunds, hurt your job prospects and mentally drain you.
Identity theft measures
Our personal data is everywhere, from banks to shopping sites to social media. It’s not totally impossible for criminals to get their hands on our information.
The best way to help prevent this is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. These services can alert you upon suspicious activity, limit damage and help you recover. They monitor your credit reports, financial accounts and medical information, and offer theft coverage if your information was compromised. Some services even offer you, private investigators and attorneys, to help recover your credit and reputation.
Other ways you can prevent identity theft include:
- Securing mailboxes
- Reviewing credit card and bank statements regularly
- Shredding documents before disposing
- Installing antivirus software
- Researching before sharing sensitive information
- Formatting devices before giving them away
- Enabling two-factor authentication on devices and accounts
Prevent Identity Theft
Although most of your data is usually encrypted, that doesn’t mean it’s completely secure. The good news is that you can help prevent identity theft with some basic due diligence. In addition, subscribing to an identity theft protection service will provide an extra layer of protection that most experts recommend.