There’s no foolproof way of preventing identity theft from taking place. However, there are numerous ways to reduce the risk of getting your identity leaked. Hackers and other malicious people can view your activities if you are working online with your computer or only browsing the internet. Stealing of your identity occurs in a number of ways. It ranges from credit identity theft, child identity theft, medical identity theft, and so much more.
Scammers will take advantage of any opportunity out there that comes in their way to help them attack your personal information. For example, working from home increases the risk of stealing your personal information. Let’s discuss how to prevent these people from stealing your identity illegally.
How Do Hackers Find Your Identity Online?
As more and more people become dependent on electronic data, the rise of cybercrimes is expected to continue in the coming years. Cybercriminals nowadays are becoming more creative and smarter, looking at different opportunities to steal information, not just credit cards or social media like Facebook or Instagram.
There are even a lot of cases where the victim or the bank don’t even realize that the account is fake or compromised even after months or years. When you become a victim of identity theft, it is recommended to take immediate actions to control the damage that a cybercriminal can do to harm you further, whether by stealing your identity or your money. Here, have a look at the opportunities hackers always wait for to steal your sensitive information:
- If you lose your wallet and it has credit or debit cards, someone else will get access to your financial information along with any personal data.
- If someone takes your mail or forwards that mail to another address of their choice, you won’t receive any mail at your address. The USPS Informed Delivery will send you images of the products that have been delivered so that you would know when they went missing.
- Using public Wi-Fi can disclose your IP address to the frauds, and they would know what you are shopping from and what credit card number you are using for shopping. That’s why we always recommend you to use a VPN service before connecting to a public Wi-Fi network.
- Malware can damage your files and sell your passwords or private information to hackers. So, always use an antivirus program on your computer and smartphone.
- Phone scams are not a new thing for us. People are always calling on our phones and asking for our personal information. Never reveal your credit card information or bank details to someone you don’t know. Always protect your private information from scam phone calls no matter what.
- When someone swaps your SIM card and replaces it with another phone number, you will stop receiving messages or calls. All they take is your number; in a jiffy, they will have all your financial information. Though these kinds of cybercrimes are not very popular, they are still haunting people- especially the people who have cryptocurrency stocks and are high-profile. So, you really want to protect your cellular account with PINs or a Password. Not that it gives you 100% safety, but still.
- You should also know that getting your credit card information is easy. When you pay money at a gas station or use your card on an ATM machine, it can be risky. But using a card with chips and added security can reduce this risk.
- Even bad guys can learn and remember your passwords just by taking a look over your shoulder. Always cover your phone with your hands when you are in public and try to protect your private information as much as possible.
- Hackers can attack your databases, and they can misuse your information. Take extra precautions when you know your information is in another database you don’t control.
How Many People Are Affected By Identity Theft?
In 2016 alone, a whopping 3.1 million complaints have been recorded by The Consumer Sentinel Network. And 1.3 Million from those complaints are related to fraud. This is equivalent to the $745 million cost to consumers. And a significant percentage of all complaints were due to identity theft at 13%. All in all, identity theft has affected 15.4 million people, with $16 billion stolen in 2016. This is not only limited to credit card fraud but also to new account frauds, where cybercriminals open a new account using other people’s personal information, such as name, birthdate and security number.
10 Ways You Can Prevent Your Information From Leaked in Online
There are a total of 10 ways that can help you save yourself from the risk of identity theft. Here are them:
1. Strong passwords per site keep the hackers on the side
When dealing with your online accounts, use strong, complex passwords. Have a combination of lower and uppercase letters, symbols and numbers. Don’t reuse passwords because if one fails, the others will follow.
Try to use two-factor authentication whenever there is a possibility. It’s always good to have another layer of security.
2. Be vigilant, set up alerts
Many financial institutions will text or email you when transactions are made through your account. Register to this service to know when and where your credit cards have been used, when withdrawals were made, when deposits happened, and more.
Knowing what happened to your account sooner rather than later is better.
3. Use the shredder
Make it a habit to destroy your credit cards and bank statements after using them. Don’t just throw them in the garbage because the information on those documents can be used to impersonate you.
4. Digital Wallet for digital payments
If you’re making payments in an online store or in a local store, use a digital wallet. A digital wallet is an app containing secure digital versions of your credit cards, debit cards and even loyalty cards. Just with a tap of your phone at checkout terminals, you can make payments. Transactions are encrypted and much safer because the user will need to authorize every transaction.
5. Mobile devices: protect them
The mobile device is a major risk factor. There’s so much private information stored in the device about its user, from pictures, social media accounts to bank accounts. If it falls under the wrong hands, it will cause serious damage. Take note of the following tips:
- Use a strong password (not 1234) to access your phone. Most phones come with biometrics built-in, so use that feature coupled with strong passwords. Some devices come with 2-factor authentication; use it.
- Use unique passwords for your mobile device and your online accounts. If one fails, others will follow (like dominos).
- Keep all your mobile applications up to date.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever available. Regarding sensitive accounts (like banking), use an authenticator app to handle two-factor authentication rather than text messages.
- If you’re not using Bluetooth, turn it off. It will save your battery too.
- Use a VPN when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
- If you receive emails from unknown sources, don’t open them. Also, if it contains attachments, don’t open them either. This can infect your device with malware and can also lead to a ransomware attack.
- Avoid using autofill. Yes, it’s convenient not to always type your credentials, but if the phone falls under the wrong hands, they will have easy access to your accounts.
6. Audit your financial and medical statements.
When you get your bank statements, thoroughly review them, no matter how small. Always be on your toes about recurring payments and incoming transactions.
Another place where people fall, victim, is when they’re requested with medical details. Double-check if someone asks about your medical details before providing information. Usually, they will ask for your personal details on the pretext of completing billing or filling prescriptions. When you have medical paperwork which is no longer needed, destroy them.
7. Keep your social security numbers safe and hidden
If your social security number falls under the wrong hands, it can greatly affect your credit. Don’t:
- carry your social security card
- write it on a sticky note on your desk
- don’t store it on unsecured websites
- send it over to public Wi-Fi
Also, beware of the people listening or watching you when providing the number to customer service representatives.
8. Oversharing on social media might not be the best thing to do
If you are constantly active on social media and will post every aspect of your life to the public, there’s a higher chance of falling under an identity theft attack (sometimes even more). Always remember to keep personal details out of the internet. By doing an analysis of a person’s social media accounts, it’s possible to build a whole new fake entity that can pose exactly like you.
9. Ban Your Credit Card
If you think that your identity is under attack, you could immediately ban your credit/debit card. Once your credit card number or similar information is leaked, you cannot undo the process. So, you can prevent fraud by freezing your credit or debit card and preventing them from using it.
10. Check Your Credit Card Reports Regularly
You won’t get to know if someone hacks your account and withdraws all the balance if you don’t receive the updates of your accounts. So, enabling email and SMS alerts and checking your credit card reports daily can greatly help you. If you notice any changes that you have not made, you can report that immediately to the bank.
In the case of Identity Theft: What to do?
Even though you take all the measures that it requires to save your identity from malicious people online, sometimes, it’s just not enough. And in those cases, there are still some things that you could do. If you feel or think that your private information has been hacked online, you can take the following measures to make sure that the event doesn’t cause any more trouble:
- Ensure that you change your password for all your online accounts - from social media to emails. Make it unique for each account with 12 or more characters.
- Contact your bank to freeze your account so the cybercriminal cannot access your resources.
- Cancel each credit card and request new account numbers. Notify the company that someone might be using your card and check if there have been any unauthorized transactions.
- It’s good to be a little paranoid, so think about all the other personal information that could have been exposed to the criminal and contact the agencies who this crime might impact.
- You may want to report this to a local law enforcement agency for investigation.
In a nutshell:
- Watch out for any Phishing schemes where criminals can access your information.
- Secure your information on social media and do not divulge or post sensitive information that cybercriminals may use.
- Monitor your credit profile to ensure that someone is not using it.
- Install antivirus and anti-malware to protect your device and system.
- Boost online security through a VPN service to secure your network and avoid cases of fraud and identity theft. This can help block malware and make your navigation on public Wi-Fi safer.
All that said, we need to say that there’s no 100% foolproof way of protecting yourself in the digital world. For example, a waiter can take a picture of your credit card; some data breach might happen on the credit card company or a store you used recently are a few of many examples where your sensitive data can be leaked from you.
It’s always a good practice to be vigilant, and getting your data compromised does not necessarily mean your identity is stolen. The sooner you detect this problem, the faster you can fix it by reporting to the authorities/responsible parties.
Do you value your privacy online?
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