Why we should start taking identity theft more seriously

By: David Lukić

A lot of people hear about identity theft in the news but still fail to take it seriously. It is one of those things that people assume won’t happen to them, but in the modern age people have to be incredibly careful.

What is Identity Theft and Online Identity Theft?

Identity theft is when someone takes your personal information in order to commit some form of fraud. It can happen in a lot of different ways. Most of the things that would count as ID theft involve people posing as you for financial gain.

Online ID theft comes when someone uses malicious software or similar viruses to steal details from you. This can include things like your online banking information, ID documents and more. Even stealing the password to an online account can allow fraudsters to get your personal details and this gives them serious power to make a negative impact on your life for their own personal gain.

If they get access to things like your Social Security number they might be able to file for tax refunds, apply for lending or even get other government benefits.

As you can see, this is a really serious issue. Some of the people who suffer from identity theft can spend years dealing with the implications. They might even be liable for some of the financial impacts and debts left behind by the fraudster.

Effects of Online Identity Theft

There are so many different ways in which this can impact upon people, financial and otherwise.

If someone were to commit crimes in your name, for example, you would end up with a big battle to clear your name. If they steal money from you, it can be as simple as them buying things with your card details, then you may never get this money back.

In some cases, fraudsters will simply do things to make your life difficult. They might be looking to hold you to ransom for money. Sadly, some people will even carry out targeted attacks, and may post malicious and offensive things in a bid to impact upon your reputation or make you lose your job.

If they get information about where you are, they may also be able to threaten you or hold you to ransom in other ways. You might be at risk of physical danger.

Perhaps the scariest thing about someone having your details is the lack of control you have. If they can do things in your name, they don’t have to deal with any of the consequences.

ID Theft is Becoming More Common

Sadly, more and more people are suffering from identity theft. The fraudsters involved are becoming more sophisticated and learning new ways to squeeze money out of you or negatively impact your life in other ways.

Also, people are signing up for more and more accounts, joining more networks and ultimately not leaving themselves properly protected from the possible impacts of identity theft. People sometimes do not take it seriously until it happens to them.

Think of all the times during the day you log on to an app or an account. All of these are opportunities for ID theft, and other schemes such as email fraud can also be ways for those who aren’t as tech-savvy to fall foul of thieves.

How Can You Prevent Identity Theft?

This guide can feel a little scary for those who don’t know what options they have when it comes to identity theft. Luckily, there are things you can do in order to prevent people from stealing your personal information.

  • Protect your Social Security number. Do not give this away unless you are totally certain that it is not going to be used against you. It is very rare that anyone will have a genuine need for this detail.

  • Be smart about passwords. Don’t use the same passwords for things, make sure you change them regularly, and most importantly, make sure your password is strong.

  • If you buy things online, only input your card details on secure sites. They should show a padlock next to the URL in your browser.

  • Don’t share information freely on social media. Even information like your date of birth can give ammo to fraudsters.

  • Be aware of data breaches. Sometimes big companies get backed and your data might have been shared. Keep abreast of this if you possibly can.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to make it less likely that you will be targeted and have to deal with the serious repercussions of identity theft.

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David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at IDStrong. The passion to make cyber security accessible and interesting has led David to share all the knowledge he has.

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