Online Identity Theft and Fraud: How to Prevent Them

Online Identity Theft and Fraud: How to Prevent Them

What is Online Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information online and uses it without your permission.

There’s no way to immunize yourself against identity theft completely. But if you’re diligent in learning how your information can be at risk and what cybercriminals can do with it, you’ll be better equipped to protect your data and act quickly if someone does manage to steal it.

How online Identity theft happens?

Online Identity Theft

Identity theft is a broad term that applies any time someone steals your personal information, such as your social media account, and uses it to create a new account and pretend that it’s you and probably scam your friends.

Due to the nature of technology and the internet, your personal information is always at risk.

Here are 10 of the most common ways identity thieves get hold of your data:

Online Identity Theft

1- Data Breaches

A data breach is a security incident in which information is accessed without authorization. Data breaches can hurt businesses and consumers in a variety of ways. They are a costly expense that can damage lives and reputations and take time to repair.

It’s almost virtually impossible to keep your information safe from a data breach because of having so many accounts with different kinds of apps, but there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.

2- Mobile Phone Theft

You usually have your social media accounts already logged in on your mobile phone. Most of the time, you also access your bank accounts via mobile banking. Not to mention those shopping apps which already have your financial details. If someone manages to steal and unlock your phone, it could allow them to view the information found in your apps, as well as in your emails, text messages, notes, and more.

Make sure your phone locks with a secure passcode, biometric screening is set up correctly, and your passwords aren’t stored in plain text anywhere on your phone.

3- Malware Activity

How Malicious Hackers Use Spyware to Steal Your Identity

They entice you with an offer.

Even normal browsing activities like clicking on an enticing ad or filling out a form for downloadable content can lead to online identity theft when users don’t know what to look for. Keyloggers can be overlaid on seemingly legitimate banking or investment apps, and intrusive tracking procedures can be signed off on by users who fail to read terms and conditions notices carefully.

You can encounter spyware and other forms of malware in many ways, including:

  • Downloading files or software
  • Opening email attachments or clicking on pop-ups
  • Visiting deceitful websites

4- Sold in Dark Web

The dark web is a hidden network of sites that aren’t accessible by regular browsers. People who visit the dark web use specialized software to mask their identities and activity, making it a haven for hoaxers. If your information ends up on a dark web marketplace, anybody could buy it, putting your identity in more danger.

5- Phishing and Spam Attacks

Some scammers use email and text messages and other forms of electronic communication to steal your sensitive information. The message often looks like it’s coming from a reputable source and asks victims to give up one or more types of information.

To know more about Phishing, click here: All About Phishing and What You Should Do If You’re A Victim Of It

6- Wi-Fi Hacking

If you use your computer or phone on a public network—airport, department store, or coffee shop Wi-Fi—hackers may be able to “eavesdrop” on your connection.

To know how to protect yourself in using public Wi-Fi’s, click here: Public Wi-Fi Security Tips for Dummies 2020

7 – Unsecure Browsing

As much as possible, only access websites with https on them.

What Happens When Your Identity is Stolen?

Online Identity Theft

Millions of people have fallen victim to identity theft, and find that they are crumbling down in the blink of an eye. That’s why using an identity monitoring service that includes both credit and non-credit monitoring, as well as identity restoration, is so important. Here are some examples of what an identity theft victim goes through so that you can prepare yourself for the worst.

Sometimes, it can take several months to discover if you’re a victim of identity theft if you’re not alerted to it. During that time, thieves can plunder accounts or run up serious debt in your name.

How to Avoid Identity Theft

Online Identity Theft

There are many things you can do proactively to protect yourself.

1- Look for Unusual Activities

Regularly keep an eye on your credit report for unusual activity. Most companies that are involved in a data breach will offer free credit monitoring for the affected customers. Go to the company’s website to see if they have a plan in place to help their customers stay protected.

If you do see something strange or unexpected, like a new credit line, you didn’t open, follow up immediately. You can also put a hold on your credit report through the major credit agencies, which will not allow any new accounts to be opened in your name.

A lot of financial companies offer activity alerts, so look into your accounts, and if they have them, sign up for them. If you do receive a suspicious alert, or your financial institution reports unusual account activity, do something as soon as possible.

2 – Avoid Questionable Websites

Transact commercial business online only with secure websites with URLs that begin with “https:”

3 – Install Antivirus

Install a personal firewall, antivirus, antispyware, and antispam protection.

4- Choose a Strong Password

Choose a strong password and use unique secure passwords for each site you visit.

Read this: How to Create A Strong Password And Avoid Getting Your Passwords Hacked

5- Limit Your Data in Social Media

Social networks can display personal information such as your full name, birthdate, and city that you live in. Be sure to check your privacy settings on your social accounts to be sure that information is only visible to trusted friends and family.

6- Dispose of Old Technology Properly

In the physical world, consider investing in a paper shredder to destroy documents with sensitive information on them, rather than just throwing them away.

When disposing of an old device, be sure to wipe all the information from it completely. The best thing you can do is restore the machine to factory settings if it is a mobile phone or tablet, or erase the hard drive if it is a computer by installing a clean version of the operating system on the hard drive.

7 – Don’t Store Sensitive Information on Your Computer

Don’t store any sensitive information about yourself or your bank accounts on your computer.

8 – Practice Safe Email Protocol

Don’t open messages from unknown senders. Immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam

9 – Update Your Software

Get the latest Windows® patches

What to Do in Cases of Identity Theft

Online Identity Theft

1- Think about what other personal information may be at risk.

2- Change All Your Passwords

Make sure you change your passwords for all online accounts. When changing your password, make it a sentence that is 12 or more characters long and make it unique to that account. You may also need to contact your bank and other financial institutions to freeze your accounts so that the cybercriminal won’t be able to access your financial resources.

3- Cancel Each Credit and Charge Card.

Get new cards with new account numbers. Inform the card companies that someone may be using your identity, and find out if there have been any unauthorized transactions. Close accounts, so that future charges are denied. You may also want to write a letter to the company so there is a record of the problem.

4- File a report with your local law enforcement agency.

Even if your local police department or sheriff’s office doesn’t have jurisdiction over the crime, you will need to provide a copy of the law enforcement report to your banks, creditors, other businesses, credit bureaus, and debt collectors.

5- Open a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Online identity theft is a huge and increasing problem, mainly because cybercriminals are getting really good at tricking people into giving over their information. With phishing and pharming scams, thieves use fake emails and websites to impersonate legitimate organizations. They leverage your trust by forcing you into exposing personal information, like passwords or account numbers.

Likewise, hackers can create malware to infiltrate your computer and can install keystroke loggers to steal data or capture account names and passwords as you type them. Recognizing the signs of identity theft and taking steps to prevent it can save you heartache, stress, and loss.

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