Identity theft happens when a cybercriminal steals a victim’s personal data, assumes legal obligations, or buys goods and services under their name. The victim then has to pay for the purchases in monthly installments or otherwise or fulfill the obligations the thief has assumed. It’s an unfortunate situation to be in.
There are severe consequences and no easy fix. Preventing theft is the best measure by far. Here are some effective safety precautions.
Protect online wallets
Paying for products and services online via an electronic wallet does away with the need to provide credit card details on different websites. However, they are less safe than credit card accounts. In fact, phishers and scammers have targeted no payment method as often as online wallets. Enable two-factor authentication, create a strong password, and don’t give anyone your login info.
If you receive an email with the warning that your online wallet has been locked or suspended in the subject line, don’t open it. Open a new tab and check. Most such emails are fake and belong in the spam folder.
Do a self-background check
Once you’ve taken the above suggestions, go to a people finder and see what information about you appears online. This will reveal if you’ve already become the victim of identity theft, among other things.
Keep your Facebook profile safe
Identity thieves love social media because of the rich pool of personal details found there. Millions of people all over the world share everything and anything they do in public without being mindful of the consequences. The cunning, computer-savvy identity thief will find lots of personal information using only a photo and a birthdate.
Your profile shouldn’t appear in search engine results. To stop Google and other search engines from indexing your profile, adjust your privacy settings.
Most of your “friends” on Facebook are merely acquaintances. Don’t trust them, and trust friends of friends even less. Share as little personal information as possible, especially that which can be shared with other people automatically. There might be an identity thief among your friends or followers.
Keep your LinkedIn account safe
People’s LinkedIn accounts provide important information about their career path, education, and professional development. They are being targeted by identity hijackers more and more often. Like with your online wallet, set up two-factor authentication as an extra security layer. Among other things, you might have important documents or projects on LinkedIn, and the risk of them falling into the wrong hands is too great to be ignored.
Secure your bank account
Banks are responsible for their websites’ safety and security, but you shouldn’t rely too much on them. Always check for a padlock in the address bar. This means the bank has a valid Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. The connection isn’t secure if the padlock has been crossed out.
Avoid public wi-fi
Do not make transfers or pay your bills on public wi-fi networks. If you must use one, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to hide your connection.
Use strong passwords
Many people use the same password for all their accounts, and cyber criminals are well-aware of this. It’s best to use a unique password for each account and generate the passkeys to your banking accounts and online portfolios randomly.
How to remember passwords
You can go the traditional route and write down all of your passwords on a sheet of paper. If this seems too old-fashioned or you believe you’ll lose the sheet, store them in the cloud, or use a master password.
Identity theft isn’t only online
Physical data carriers can also fall into the wrong hands. These include invoices, bills, bank statements, and more. If you decide to throw them away, shred or tear them up into little pieces. Then, discard them permanently by throwing them into the container for recycling paper.
Credit card receipts can also present a risk. Most people throw out their receipts after leaving the store or filling up the tank. Some even chuck them into the street. These people are risking a littering fine, and someone might pick up the receipt and link the details to your vehicle’s license plate. Admittedly, the odds aren’t high, but the idea is to prevent identity theft.