What Is Identity Theft and Why Are You at Risk?
Did you know that if you have accounts on the internet such as bank accounts and social media, you may be at risk of identity theft? Worse yet, practically all of us use the practicality of the internet today for everything from our finances, and healthcare, to entertainment and shopping. The trouble is, it is easy for hackers to stalk us with scams and hacks and silently hijack our identities online. In fact, this happens so often that entire law enforcement task teams have been dedicated in an attempt to curb this phenomenon all over the world.
The good news is that you can severely limit the digital data about you that may be accessible to others. For one, this involves digital hygiene best practices. Secondly, you need to use a few cybersecurity and anti-theft solutions to be as protected as possible. When you combine the methods we are going to talk about below, your risk of identity theft will be much lower.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft comes in two forms, real world and digital. In the real world, theft is simple. A thief or a scammer can trick you into giving over key pieces of information about yourself, or you can be physically robbed of your wallet, for example. This happens every day, while thieves and robbers constantly devise new ways to steal your identity.
The issue is that, while in the real world, you can report a physical robbery or scam to the nearest police officer or police station, the digital world is a place where criminals can anonymize themselves and remove themselves from the equation. This is precisely why millions of stolen accounts are available for purchase on the dark web. This is an area of the internet accessible only with the special Tor browser. Criminals love to congregate and do their deeds on the dark web because it is extremely difficult for law enforcement to pin them down. Furthermore, fraudulent marketplaces on the dark web offer payment options in anonymous digital currencies (cryptocurrency), further complicating police investigations.
In the digital world, it is much easier to prey on naive people and steal their identities quietly. Sometimes it is as simple as sending out a malicious email with a stealer link that, for example, old people will trust and click on. Once details are entered, game over. Then, there are several forms of scams and ways to hack into accounts as well. IIl-intentioned people can also combine real-world and digital identity theft into a form of hybrid identity theft.
But why would someone want to steal your identity, you ask? Well, numerous reasons for that make perfect sense to the seasoned criminal or scammer. Let’s talk about why you are at risk, and what you can do about it.
Why Are You at Risk?
Unfortunately, it may take some time to realize that you have been the victim of identity theft. If you don’t frequently check your credit report, you might not learn until something significant occurs.
Anytime a fraudster gets their hands on someone else’s personally identifying information, it is considered identity theft, also known as identity fraud. They then employ that data to commit fraud, obtain credit, conceal their identity, obtain services, or even land a job.
There are steps you can take to significantly lower the likelihood of becoming an identity theft victim, even though there is no way to guarantee it in today’s crowded and chaotic world (particularly on the internet).
There are numerous ways malicious people can hijack your identity. These include mail theft, dumpster diving, shoulder surfing, phishing emails, and hacking. Criminals can target a variety of attack vectors such as credit identity and non-credit identity types of theft.
How to Protect Yourself from Digital Identity Theft
Now, it is time to talk about what you can do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. You must secure all of your accounts with strong passwords and never use the same password on more than one account. You also do not want to overshare information about yourself on social media because criminals like to lurk there, spy on you, and check if they can piece your identity together from snippets of information like photos, videos, and posts.
Next, you should look at getting an identity theft monitoring service such as Lifelock, IdentityForce, or Identity Guard. On top of that, use a virtual private network or VPN to encrypt your connection all day when browsing the internet.
It is difficult to know if you are currently a victim of identity theft. However, there are some telltale signs like being denied a loan due to a low credit score, failing employment background checks, and realizing something is wrong with your bank account balance. Furthermore, if you get arrested at a routine traffic stop for no reason, this might also be a sign. You may also be denied health insurance (because someone copied your health insurance details and used it or forged it) as well as receive IRS notifications or debt collector notifications.
If you suspect anything, immediately change all of your passwords. Secondly, report cases to local law enforcement, or major credit reporting agencies. You can also try the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website if you are in the U.S.
Identity theft is out there, and it is scary. The main issue is that we tend to blindly overshare personal details about ourselves while having account passwords that are too easy to hack. This is a deadly combination. Unfortunately, criminals will continue to prey on naive and older people, or even unaware children. Such is the way of the world. However, with the tips above, your security and awareness stance will be much improved. Do not forget to teach other people and pass this information on so that we can all live in a more secure world, free of identity theft,