How to Avoid Identity Theft
Identity theft refers to using someone else’s identity for fraud, such as using stolen credit cards or government-issued ID cards. It’s a crime that affects a large population every year. Learn how to avoid identity theft by going through this blog.
What Is Identity Theft?
As the name implies, identity theft is when someone steals your personal information without your knowledge for committing fraud. Your personal information covers everything from name, home address, date of birth, social security number (SSN), bank account number, credit card number, and medical insurance number.
Identity theft is one of the recurring crimes that affect people every year. The Federal Trade Commission received 1.4 million complaints about identity theft in just 2020 alone. It was a 113% increase from the previous year.
As our lives are more digital than ever, and our reliance on digital systems has only gotten stronger, the risks have grown proportionally.
It has become easier for malicious actors to steal personal information through scams like Phishing.
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
The presence of personal information has made it easier than ever for hackers to obtain such information. It may not be as easy as stealing someone’s credit card from the wallet, but there is potential to steal more than just credit cards when on the internet.
Phishing is a fraudulent technique designed to steal personal information or ask the user to perform an action. You may receive an email impersonating an eCommerce platform telling you that your account has been suspended or your order needs a few details as confirmation.
Someone may go through your trash can to see any documents that reveal personal information. Your social media accounts are another venue where information is much more likely to be available, and publicly.
Employees working at hospitals or insurance companies can look into your details and find information such as your attached credit card.
An Example of Identity Theft
Your personal information could be used to buy stuff using your credit card information. The personal information will allow the thief to validate big-value items during a bank confirmation.
Personal information can be used to create a credit card. You will rack up debt as the fraudster burns through the credit limit. In worse scenarios, you could be criminalized if the fraudster uses your driver’s license when pulled over by police. It may be too late for you to realize something has happened until you receive a court summon or a warrant for your arrest.
Pay close attention to financial statements and financial accounts for any unexplained changes. If you receive an alert from your bank about an unidentified transaction, contact the bank immediately and freeze your credit card.
How to Protect Against Identity Theft
Personal information is your privacy. Hence, you need to follow every precaution to avoid identity theft.
- Social media accounts are public spaces where friends and strangers can see your personal information on your profile. Avoid sharing personal details on your social media platforms that can expose you to the risk of identity theft.
- If you have personal documents or work somewhere, that involves handling sensitive information, always dispose of the documents by shredding them.
- Keep your financial and social media accounts protected with strong passwords and two-factor authentication (2FA).
- Pay attention to calls that ask you to confirm banking information, such as the last digits of your credit card.
- Only trust emails from trusted sources. If an email asks you to download an attachment or click a link as a matter of urgency, confirm the sender’s email address. Phishing email addresses will look different than real ones; even a letter different is proof enough.
- Social Security number (SSN) is important for organizations like the IRS. You will never be called or emailed to submit the SSN. So don’t fall for scam calls.
- Malware such as keyloggers is designed to steal credentials by recording input strokes as soon as you visit a banking or any other financial website. Always use an antivirus to detect malware and disinfect the system before it can do any damage.
- You may need to sell your phone or computer. Do not manually delete your data but do a factory reset of the device. It will ensure that everything is erased and the device is returned to its factory settings.
How to Protect Data with VPN
Public Wi-Fi spots witness a large number of users every day. A coffee shop is expected to offer free Wi-Fi to customers as complimentary. But such networks are generally vulnerable to malicious attacks. Many public Wi-Fi spots are not password-protected and it makes them vulnerable.
A hacker can connect to the Wi-Fi and intercept the data packets of other users on the network. The attacker can also set up a rogue Wi-Fi access point that resembles the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi SSID.
As you connect to the rogue Wi-Fi access point, the hacker can read all personal information that you transmit.
That is why you need a VPN for Wi-Fi. iProVPN prevents data theft by encrypting internet traffic using AES 256-bit encryption.
If you are a victim of identity theft, reach out to the relevant authority. Let your bank know immediately if your credit card was stolen and used for making purchases. If you are in the U.S, file a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The key is to report the identity theft immediately as soon as you discover something is wrong. If you have misplaced your credit card, call the bank and have it deactivated before it can be used.
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