The topic of identity loss or theft has become commonplace. The data of unaware individuals is simply to easy a prey for criminals. Often, the media reports about identity theft of thousands of people, that’s why in today’s digital world, it is extremely important to guard one’s identity.
The first step is to understand the facts concerning how identity theft actually works. Simply put, it is a case of one person pretending to be another. This act can have a wide range of forms, from using someone’s name to changing one’s fingerprints.
Modern identity theft is more insidious and uses many technological elements. Identity thieves can misuse one piece of sensitive information, e.g. a social security number, combining it with publicly available information, like a full name or address, to gain access to your credit cards or other assets.
The reason why online identity theft concerns so many people is the simple fact, that we have gotten used to sharing a very large sum of information regarding or lives on easily accessible places on the web. A name, email address and a password are in many cases all, that it takes to cause significant damage.
It is critical to realize, that not every person on the web is your friend or someone you can trust. Besides collecting information on your life, identity thieves engage in many other, targeted ways of attack. They can take on the appearance of your bank or a similar institution and by means of a fake web page, request login credentials from your person. They can pretend to be a family member or a colleague, possibly stealing their account, to get to yours. The most susceptible victims of identity theft are those, that don’t expect it, that’s why critical thinking is your strongest form of defense.
How to protect your online identity
Besides critical thinking, the most important factor of protecting your identity is the way, in which you handle your personal data. The fact, that such a large number of people treat this kind of data recklessly and without second thought, makes it that much easier for the thieves to “build up” a profile. No precautions can ensure your safety, considering that everything digital is vulnerable and any kind of safeguard can be broken, however, we have a few tips on how to become a more “difficult target”. With these and a speck of luck, you will be able to discourage the thieves from even trying to get to you in the first place:
- Verify every page and person that attempts to contact you. Pages with a valid SSL certificate are definitely less suspicious than those without one and no bank employee nor a family member will ever ask for your login credentials – for whatever reason they may state.
- Use strong and unique passwords for every account that you own. Seriously consider a password management software.
- Do not install any software, that you don’t trust or one that comes from a suspicious source. It can be malicious software(malware), that records your credentials and sends them directly to the attacker.
- Think critically about everything. Be cautious about the information you share on various social networks. If something sounds too good to be true, it’s probably just another attempt to steal your identity or money.
If your identity has been stolen, it can be very difficult to protect yourself from potential theft of your property or the misuse of your name and other data. One must immediately act and try to mitigate the damage. Report the loss of any documents or credit cards to all subjects that it concerns. Your bank can block the cards or eventually cancel or return payments, that have been made without your knowledge. Change the passwords to all of your accounts – even those, that seem unaffected.
If it comes to the security of your identity, being a bit paranoid can be advantageous. It helps you realize, that thieves can use the most innocent detail of your personal life to their advantage. It doesn’t mean, that you should close yourself off from the rest of the world just to have a sense of security. You just have to carefully consider where, how and most importantly, which personal information you share and how to become the least tempting target for potential attacks.