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How to Prevent Identity Theft Online

by Emma Wilson

Cases of identity theft and fraud in the US are on the rise, with 4.8 million incidents reported in 2020. That’s an astounding 45 percent increase from the 3.3 million incidents reported in 2019. 

Most incidents of identity theft happen online, given that most Americans have moved a large part of their lives to the online world. 

Identity theft can have devastating consequences. You could lose money, find yourself in surprise debt, or even get arrested for crimes committed under your identity.

Thankfully, you can prevent identity theft online through a few simple steps. In today’s post, we outline eight ways to safeguard your personal information as you use the internet. But first we answer a couple of key questions.

What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft refers to a type of fraud in which someone steals and uses your personal information to impersonate you. Once they have your identity, the criminal can receive services in your name or commit other crimes using your personal information.

Generally, people who commit identity theft target personally identifiable information (PII). Criminals can also target other types of information, such as your postcode, current or former employer, and race. 

How Do Criminals Steal Identities?

Crooks use a variety of ways to steal identities. Some of the old-fashioned ways include stealing your mail, going through your trash can for old copies of bank statements and bills, stealing your purse or wallet, and so on.

Cybercriminals commit identity theft online after stealing your data through such tactics as phishing, malware, and confidence scams.

Simple Ways to Prevent Identity Theft

The good news is that you’re not helpless against identity theft. The following actionable tips can help uphold your online safety.

Use Reliable Security Software

One of the top ways data security is compromised is through malicious software. Once the system is compromised, other safeguards will be of little help as hackers already have the key to your actions online.

The best way to safeguard against malicious software is by using reliable anti-malware software. With such a security program, you ensure that hackers don’t have backdoor access to your personal data. Be sure to use an antivirus program on all gadgets you use to access the internet, including your smartphone, tablet, and laptop.

Ensure you also keep everything in your system updated, including your operating system.

Know How to Spot Phishing Scams

Phishing is a favorite tactic of cybercriminals. That’s because it’s arguably more effective than just about any other attack hackers use to breach unsuspecting victims.

While some phishing scams are considerably easy to understand, others in social networking sites and email can seem very legitimate. The best way to avoid being a victim of phishing is to not click on any link sent to you before you’re sure it’s safe. Before you click on a link, find the website first using a search engine to verify its legitimacy and safety.

Practice Solid Password Management

Cybercriminals love weak passwords, particularly where the victim uses the same password for all their accounts. As soon as a hacker has your password, they can log into your financial or other accounts and wreak havoc. 

Unfortunately, most people don’t take their password security seriously. It’s no wonder compromised passwords account for the vast majority of all hacking breaches. 

The best way to manage your passwords is to invest in a reliable password manager. Such tool helps generate strong passwords and store them securely. Other reliable password management practices include two-factor authentication (2FA) and single sign-on (SSO). 

Monitor Your Credit Accounts  

Once they steal your personal information, criminals can open new lines of credit under your name. The best way to know what’s going on with your credit accounts is to monitor them monthly. Check your account statements for any suspicious activity, such as charges that you didn’t make.

In case you spot any suspicious activity, report it to the relevant officials right away.

Even better, consider freezing your credit. This entails locking your credit so that no new credit can be provided to someone without additional controls and information. In most cases, the law gives you the right to freeze your credit without charges.

Use Reputable Websites When Buying Products

Unless you already know the reputation of the company you’re shopping from, do a bit of research before making purchases through their site. Generally, you want to see how other users review them and what rating they have with the BBB. 

Does the company use a secure and encrypted connection to ensure data protection? If not, how can they guarantee the security of your personal and financial information?

Avoid providing your sensitive data unless you’re sure a company’s website is secure and that the data you provide can’t be used for malicious purposes. 

Stop Divulging Personal Information on Social Sites

Social media sites are a great place to connect, but they can also be where you get robbed. Cybercriminals are always on the prowl for unsuspecting people who share too much personal information. 

Do you really need to divulge your bank details, mother’s maiden name, or date of birth? The information you give could just be what a hacker needed to steal your identity. Guard your information fiercely to remain safe.

Stop Identity Theft in Its Tracks

Getting your identity stolen can have far-reaching consequences, including ruining you financially. That’s why it’s vital to always keep your guard up, especially when surfing the web. With the simple tactics we’ve shared in this post, you can prevent identity theft and enjoy the digital life more.

Are you interested in reliable identity management tools for you or your business? Please, contact us today.