Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world and you could easily become the next victim if you are not taking the necessary steps to protect yourself.
Identity theft, or the term "ID theft", dates back to 1964 and is known as a form of fraud where a person basically pretends to be someone else in order to access resources, credit or other benefits in that person's name.
The actions of identity theft have become very popular due to one main contributing reason, the growth of the internet and online social media. There are many forms of identity theft in the physical world where you should use common knowledge to protect yourself. One preventive measure is to keep track of your belongings and never willingly give a stranger your personal information (social security number, credit card number, address, etc.). In the online world, it is a whole new playing field and everyone is a target. Gone are the days that a thief had to obtain your purse or wallet to steal your identity. A cyberthief can now sit behind a computer screen and snatch your identity.
Below are our top 5 online identity theft prevention tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft which can literally ruin your life.
Top 5 Online Identity Theft Prevention Tips
1. Detect and remove malicious data stealing software.
Malware is a major contributor to identity theft because many malicious programs, such as spyware and keyloggers, are specifically designed to log and record information transferred over the Internet. Cyberthieves will use malware, keylogger, or spyware application to collect sensitive data like a computer user's banking account information. Many times data-stealing malware can go undetected which is why it is very important to always utilize a reputable antivirus or antispyware application to detect these types of programs. Being proactive about detecting and removing spyware, keyloggers and other malware is essential to keeping your personal data stored on your computer safe. Some malware programs have the ability to open up your system to a remote cyberthief, where any stored information can be accessed without you ever knowing about it until it is too late.
2. Always use different strong passwords and change it often.
The password that you choose for accessing your online accounts is a gateway to your personal life. If you use a weak password that a hacker can easily guess, you're asking for trouble. If that same password is recycled among several of your online accounts, you are asking for double trouble. You might as well post your login credentials on a popular website. Choosing a different password for different accounts is a wise idea in the event that a hacker was able to compromise just one of your accounts. Usually hackers assume that the same password is used for multiple accounts so they attempt to log into other online accounts belonging to you. Using a strong password will also make it harder for a hacker to easily guess or use an automated application to figure out your password. Lastly, changing your password often will keep others in a perpetual guessing game in the case that a hacker is adamant about stealing your personal information. Remember, you are never under any obligation to give up your password to anyone no matter who they may claim to be.
3. Use a web browser with encryption while keeping it updated with the latest version.
Your web browser application is basically your surfboard on the vast ocean that we call the Internet, and if it is broken, you are going to have some bumpy waves. The web browser provides access to websites, files, and media hosted on servers from all over the world. If your web browser is outdated, you run the risk of a hacker taking advantage of a vulnerability within the browser, potentially allowing any data transmitted from your computer to be compromised. Just think, the next time that you log into your banking account to transfer funds, a hacker could be recording every number or password that you enter. It would not matter if you used the strongest password in the world, the hacker would have made-off with your information and started to clean out your banking account. Using a web browser with built in encryption and phishing site detection is a must. Phishing sites are very hard to recognize because they look like the real thing. A phishing site is designed to mimic a real site, such as a banking site, so that you may willingly enter personal information. Personal information collected on a phishing site usually leads to stealing your identity.
4. Limit the amount of personal information accessible by others on social networks such as Facebook.
Many Facebook users have had an ordeal with the privacy settings in just the past few months raising concern over identity theft. Privacy is everything when it comes to identity theft and having the wrong privacy settings on Facebook, or any other social network, could allow an outsider to find out more about you than the government knows. If you limit the amount of personal information on social networks, you will not have to worry about ensuring that the privacy settings are protecting your interest. Not only are hackers able to obtain personal information from computer users through Facebook, but they seek it out on other networks such as MySpace and Twitter. Hackers also create various scams that they run on social networks to trick you into entering large amounts of personal information on an unknown website.
5. Use an identity theft protection service.
There are several reputable identity theft protection services that will help monitor who is accessing your credit or using your address. Having one of these services is not a full-proof solution to preventing identity theft but it helps. In the case that a cyberthief has your information and attempts to charge something to your credit card or better yet, access your credit to take out a loan, an identity theft protection service will alert you. Knowing who to contact in such an event is also key in preventing identity theft. Many of these identity theft protection services or credit monitoring services will provide the proper authority to contact. In the case that you do not know who to contact, you can always start with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They have a dedicated identity theft report line that can be reached toll-free at 1-877-IDTHEFT begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 1-877-IDTHEFT end_of_the_skype_highlighting, 1-877-ID THEFT (877-438-4338) or online http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft.
Have you ever been a victim of identity theft or know someone who has? Do you fear that one day you may become a victim or have you taken precautionary steps to avoid identity theft? If so, what did you do in either case?