Over the last few years, online identity theft has emerged as one of the most vicious negative side-effects of the virtual world. By definition, an online theft of identity is a scam, deception or crime which could result in the loss of personal and confidential data. This may include loss of passwords, usernames, credit card numbers, banking information and even health IDs and social security numbers.
Online identity thefts are generally carried out to steal personal information and indulge in fraud or other criminal activities.
Going by FTC records, at least 9 million Americans get their identities stolen every year. And since 2005, at least 534 million cases have been registered where personal records have been stolen from businesses, organizations, government bodies and institutions. If this number is spread evenly through the US population of 310 million, the US people would have had their identities stolen more than once.
For several consumers around the world, theft of identity is an inconvenience that can be resolved with speed. However, for a vast majority of people, it is often a lot more damaging – identity theft has resulted in loss of reputation, job opportunities and even rejection of vital loans from the dent on credit score.
In the worst cases, people have been arrested for crimes committed by impersonators.
There are variegated types of exploits through which consumers become the victims of identity theft. The old fashion way is through fraudsters stealing from mailboxes, scanning trashcans for statements from banks and bills and also stealing purses on the run. There have also been cases where they made extra copies of credit cards – mostly when they take your card away to process payments.
Identity thefts in the cyberspace are also rampant through phishing and what is now popularly termed as “confidence scams.” Malware is downloaded into computers and smartphones to steal information. Lax security of wireless networks is exploited and ATM machines are tapped with rigged devices that scan sensitive card information.
On some occasions, people commit the criminal mistake of trusting unworthy people with their passwords. There are also cases where sensitive information is breached through attacks on government, education or company sites.
It is absolutely non-negotiable that you protect your smartphones and computers with updated security software. Once malicious software makes way into your phone or computer, other kinds of safeguards are of very little help, since fraudsters have already made way to confidential data. It is also important to ensure that the correct operating system updates are installed.
While some of the regular scams and phishing attempts are rally easy to look through, there are lots of sophisticated phishing attempts that may look extremely legitimate at the start. The only fireproof way to avoid all phishing scams is to never set mouse on any link that has been sent to you. If an email claims it is from your bank, addresses you with your name, has the logo and the color scheme in place, there are two possibilities – it could be from your bank, or maybe it is not.
Do not use the link in the mail. Use a search engine and try to locate the link by yourself. This will make sure you do not land on any mocked up fake site.
All thieves of identity dream of weak passwords. And it is a real wet dream if you are using the same password everywhere. Once a thief gets hold of this big password, they can strip into your bank account at any moment. Passwords you use should be
The law gives you the right to three free reports on credit every year – from Equifax, Transunion and Experian. All these credit bureaus carry out operations through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also use the site to access all three reports at once.
It is important to remember that once a report has been requested, you will have to wait for at least a year before it is available for free again. Of course, you can request a paid copy any time.
Look around if there are some new and interesting credit cards, loans and some other transactions on one of your accounts which you might not be aware of. If there is anything similar, you will have to get it investigated and terminated at once.
Stolen IDs are often used by criminals to open new credit lines. These attempts can be easily thwarted by simply locking (or freezing) the credit. This means new credit cannot be initiated without additional permissions and controls. Most states have laws where they allow you to freeze credit at any time. Large credit bureaus do it for a very low price even in states where it is not legally mandated to freeze credits.
Shopping online is the new fad among everyone around. However, you should stay a couple of steps ahead of the latest security checks at all times. Only trust websites that have the best security measures firmly in place. Also look at the way in which these websites have been reviewed by others vis-à-vis their security standards.
Always watch out for signs like:
Applying these 8 steps on a consistent basis will help you defend your credit score and help you keep your online identity intact.