We’ve all heard the stories about people who have had their identities stolen, whether it is their credit card details, their email address, Social Security number, or their driver’s license or passport. Identity theft isn’t just something that you hear about on the news though – in today’s high-tech society, it’s becoming easier for thieves to steal your identity online.
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When you shop online, you input your name, credit card details, and address – and it’s the same when you do your online banking, or fill out account registration forms. Our personal information is scattered across the web, which means we could be all the more susceptible to thieves who are operating online.
However, there are ways to ensure your information is kept secure. If you want to protect your identity online, here is some information that will help you.
Firstly, why should I care?
In the US, a 2010 report found that 11.1 million adults were a victim of identity fraud. What’s more, every three seconds, an identity is stolen and in 2008, Americans incurred $54 billion in loss from identity theft.
Identity theft can occur through credit card charges, bad credit, loss of social security benefits, criminal charges (such as traffic violations or criminal records), and even medical theft. In 2009, it was estimated that one in four Americans is expected to become a victim of identity theft.
How do thieves steal your identity online?
There are multitudes of ways thieves can steal your identity online, even if the websites you are visiting have security measures in place.
Thieves can send phishing emails or instant messages (SPIM) that pretend to be from a legitimate person or organisation (such as Paypal) in an attempt to lure you to give personal information. Hackers could also install spyware, Trojan horses, or malware into your computer that can take control of your computer or direct you to invalid sites.
On top of this, thieves can install keyloggers onto your computer that log your keystrokes so hackers can record your passwords and credit card details as you type online. Also, if your wireless network at home is unsecured, thieves can use this to access data on the computers you have connected to your wireless router – this is known as Wardriving.
So how can I protect myself?
If you’re reading this and panicking, don’t despair – there are measures you can take to protect yourself online!
First off, be aware! Make sure you are aware of all the different online tricks and scams that thieves can use to obtain your personal information – this way you’ll know what to look for. Keep your personal data private and never disclose it to strangers, and also make sure to check the URL of websites before you enter any vital information. Ensure your passwords contain letters and numbers, secure your wireless network, and don’t log into banking and credit card sites while using public hotspots.
When browsing the web, use a comprehensive antivirus software such as McAfee Total Protection Software, which will protect you from spyware, malware, and viruses, as well as steer you clear of any fake websites that are trying to get your personal information. Also remember to use a firewall to block any unauthorized access to your computer or network.
If you do become a victim…
…it’s best to notify the credit bureaus and create a fraud alert, and also file a police report. Be proactive as well and contact any financial institutions or agencies where your accounts may be affected. In the worst case scenario, put a credit freeze in place or consider legal help – after all, your identity is on the line!
Have you or any of your friends or family been a victim of identity theft?
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