Technology is both good and bad for society. It provides easy access to information that would have been otherwise difficult to reach without the tools we have today. However, since everyone can use the Internet and learn how to navigate through it, some people abuse this privilege to commit crimes such as identity theft.
Identity theft pertains to the process of thieves stealing your information to take over your accounts, rent or buy properties, or perform other illegal deeds. Criminals use data breaches, malware, mail theft, and even dumpster diving to gain access to your name, Social Security Number (SSN), and other personal details that are used by banks and legal institutions.
Here are some tips to protect you from online identity theft:
1. Be Aware of Ransomware
Ransomware is a type of malware utilized by identity thieves to coerce computer owners to pay a ransom. What happens is that this software creeps into your PC or laptop and allows the hackers to see your files. They can then use that to blackmail you by threatening to publish your data or blocking your access to it unless you send them money.
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According to Web Safety Advice, this malicious software is the most preferred weapon used by cybercriminals with over 4,000 ransomware attacks on households and corporations daily. Also, the majority of computers in China are infected with malware so be cautious when buying gadgets and devices from the East Asian country.
2. Secure Your SSN
Your Social Security Number acts as the key to your personal information. By just knowing your full name and SSN, an identity thief can pretend to be you and tarnish your reputation. They can open new credit cards and use them to purchase items. Never post your number on social media and be wary about businesses asking for it especially when it doesn’t seem relevant for their services.
3. Know the Common Types of Identity Theft
Being aware of the various scenarios that can lead to identity theft and the consequences of those situations can open your eyes to the gravity of this crime. As mentioned above, once cyber-criminals get a hold of your SSN through your social security card, they can take over your accounts and pretend to be you. Moreover, some even sell your name to undocumented workers.
These are the other kinds of identity theft:
- Financial Identity Theft – This happens when a hacker steals your credit card and bank account information. The thief can use up all your savings and damage your future purchasing power and financial security.
- Driver’s License Identity Theft – Losing your wallet can have dire repercussions since your driver’s license can fall into the wrong hands. Identity thieves can use it to protect their own identity if they’re caught driving under the influence (DUI).
- Criminal Identity Theft – It occurs when a person commits a crime and uses another person’s name for identification. Several people have fallen victim to this crime so always be careful in sharing information online.
- Don’t Fall for Phishing Scams
Phishing ensues when a hacker pretends to be a legitimate entity such as banks or government agencies to obtain sensitive information. This can be done through the phone and in emails. Don’t give out your information over unsecured networks. Remember that banks and the government already have access to your data so if someone’s claiming to be from these institutions avoid giving any details.
The most common phishing scams include:
- Spear Phishing – This occurs when scammers tailor their attack emails and include your name, job title, company, and other information to make you believe that you have established a connection with them previously. Then, the thieves lure you into clicking a malicious URL or email attachment that may allow malware or ransomware to enter your PC or laptop.
- Pharming – It’s a method of attack that targets a high-traffic website’s domain name and redirects its visitors to an imposter site without the latter knowing. Then, they may ask you to type in your data or trap you into clicking a malicious link.
- Cloud Storage Phishing – Dropbox and Google Drive have fallen victims to this type of scam. Hackers use these programs to send phishing emails to users and have them enter their login credentials on a fake but legit-looking sign-in page.
At this day and age, it’s crucial that you’re aware of the various tactics fraudsters use to steal your data. Be proactive in protecting your identity by creating strong passwords for your online accounts and updating them regularly. Also, never share too much information on social media and make yourself susceptible to attacks.