Identity theft is a kind of scam, deception, or crime which results in the loss of passwords, usernames, banking information, social security numbers, credit card numbers, health ID’s, etc. which are then used to commit crimes like fraud.
Identity theft online occurs when users fall for confidence or phishing scams, download malicious software, use insecure wireless networks, withdraw money from rigged ATMs, share passwords with strangers, etc.
To ensure this never happens to you, here are a few things you can do to protect your online identity effectively:
Protect your computer with strong security software
If your PC has malicious software, all other safeguards will be of little help since the criminals already have the key to your personal information. Whenever you download files from the web with your internet download manager software, always scan the files first with your antimalware tool to ensure there is no infection. Also, make sure you install all system updates as soon as they are available.
Learn to spot any scams or spam
Some phishing scams are easily identifiable. Some other phishing attempts through email, social networking, IM, etc. look legitimate. The only way of ensuring you never fall for these scams is by not clicking on links that are sent to you. If you get an email from your bank, don’t just assume it’s actually from your bank. Instead of visiting the links in the email, use a search engine to visit the actual site. This will you will know if you have received a legitimate email or spam.
Weak passwords are the dream of any identity thief
They’ve hit the jackpot if you use the same password for all your accounts. This is because once they know your password, they will be able to access every single online account of yours and make your life miserable. You should always use long passwords (at least 10 characters) which are a combination of various alphanumeric characters and are not related to your personal information in any way.
Another thing which you should do is frequently check your credit scores
Look to see if there are details of any new credit cards, transactions or loans which you aren’t aware of. If you find any, make sure you take immediate steps to get them rectified.
Sometimes, criminals use your stolen ID’s to open up lines of credit. You can prevent this from ever happening by freezing your credit altogether. This means no additional credit will be issued in your name without additional controls and information.
Lastly, always be alert for any of the below signs of identity theft:
- False information on credit reports including address, employer’s name, or social security number.
- Missing mail. If your bills haven’t arrived or come late, speak with your creditors. A missing bill may just indicate that someone is using your account and has changed the billing address, so you don’t find out.
- Getting credit cards which you haven’t applied for.
- Having credit approvals denied or being charged high rates of interest without a valid reason.
- Receiving notices or calls regarding due bills for services or products you didn’t purchase.
This should be more than enough to ensure you never have your identity stolen in today’s world.