You have probably read and heard about people having their identity stolen. Stories of a friend’s credit card being used in China while he was in California are all prevalent. It as estimated that 13,000,000 became victim to identity theft in 2015, that’s only in America alone. The instances of identity theft have only grown over the past three years since those figures were released.
There are also many forms of identity theft like the social security information of one person being used by the thief to apply for credit cards. The same goes for medical information, that’s right someone could steal your medical records and use that to claim insurance on your behalf.
While the universal consensus is that identity theft costs people a lot of heard break not to mention financial losses, the fact is that it can be prevented. All you have to do is be careful online. Below we look at some of the most effective ways of avoiding identity theft.
Identity theft is defined as the deliberate use of someone else’s identity for financial gain like obtaining a credit card, getting a personal loan or impersonation for other reasons. In most cases, the person whose identity is stolen suffers from financial or personal losses as a result.
The term was coined back in 1964, and since then, the definition of the term has evolved to encompass personal information including date of birth, the name of the individual, driver’s license, bank account, social security number and credit cards etc. Though as of late fingerprints, e-signatures and pins have become part of the definition.
Now that you know that identity theft is a huge problem how do you protect yourself? Well there are a number of things you can do some more effective than others. The good news is that you don’t have to be a tech genius to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Use Strong Passwords: If you are anything like me your password could be perhaps your date of birth combined with a few other types of information. Though it may appear to be secure, hackers can still guess it. The only way you can be assured that a password is secure is by generating it randomly. There are numerous online password generators you can use. However, remembering these obscure passwords can be an issue. That’s where using a good password manager comes in. The password manager remembers all your passwords, and you just need to remember one to access it. Oh! And one last tip, don’t use the same password for multiple accounts.
Protect Your Computer: Identity thieves use software like keyloggers, and spyware to extract sensitive information from victims. So, your firewall, anti-virus, and any spyware should be updated on a regular basis. Yes! You will need to pay a monthly fee but it is far cheaper than if someone were to use your identity to by 100 PS4s for Christmas!
Encrypt your Computer’s Hard drive: Almost all Windows and Mac computers have the option to encrypt everything on your hard drive. Go to settings and the security tab to run the encryption process. Once your hard drive has been encrypted hackers can’t access or use your information. Also, make sure to encrypt any data that leaves your computer like emails or when you access a website and signup for service (we dive a little deeper into that below).
Learn How to Spot Phishing Scams: I recently received an email from Google saying that my email had been hacked. There was a link in the email to reset my password. This is a classic phishing scam. If I did click on the link, it would take me to a webpage that looked like it was Google’s password reset page but would be run by a hacker. Then when I would have reset my password, that information would be sent to the hacker. If you ever receive a similar email from your bank. The insurance company, doctor or anyone else be very careful because in 80% of the cases it is a phishing scam.
Perhaps the best identity theft protection is to protect your internet connection. After all, if hackers can see where you are located via your real IP address, they could launch a number of various attacks. Also, if you are accessing the internet via a public Wi-Fi, you have no idea where your traffic is passing through. Interestingly, many of the people who report their identity being stolen use public Wi-Fi a lot.
If you are going to use a public Wi-Fi network or even your own Wi-Fi network it pays to make sure that your connection is secure. A VPN encrypts all your information which is sent through a highly secure server. So, hackers can’t see your real IP address. If you are using a public network, hackers will only be able to see a bunch of jargon owing to the encryption.
Fortunately, there are some excellent VPN services which allow you to access the internet securely. You will find a sort of top 5 of the best VPN services here.
Almost all governments have a system of reporting identity theft. Americans can report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online via their website identitytheft.gov or over the phone by calling 1-877-438-4338.
People who report their identity theft online get an identity theft report with a recovery plan. You will have to create an account on their website and then track your progress, plus you will get prefilled letters that you can send to all creditors.
If you choose not to create an account, the identity theft report and recovery plan will have to be printed. Interestingly, things move a lot easier if you know who the identity thief is. However, it is not mandatory but what is mandatory is reporting the crime.