We know how to secure our physical valuables, such as our money and gadgets. However, many of us don’t know how to protect something more important: our identity. In the US alone, identity theft affected more than 16 million people in 2017. These people collectively lost more than 16 million dollars, and that doesn’t include intangible costs, such as damaged reputations and lost time. Indeed, identity theft can sometimes be worse than physical robbery, so you need to make adequate preparations for it.
Identity theft can be a confusing matter to understand. Why would someone claim to be you, and how do criminals do it? Learning more about this brand of crime will help you prevent yourself from being an easy target by these criminals. As long as you follow the best practices for avoiding this type of theft, you can rest assured that your identity will remain secure for years to come.
Stealing Someone’s Identity
You might be wondering: why would someone impersonate you? As a productive citizen, you already have precious assets such as social security benefits or the salary from your employer. You have access to one or more bank accounts, many of which hold substantial amounts of money. You also have friends and acquaintances that have their valuable assets. Someone who pretends to be you can seize all of these.
Impersonation can take one of many forms. For instance, thieves can intercept your connection when you access the Internet through an unsecured connection, such as public Wi-Fi spots. When you try to access banking sites or log into social media accounts, they can retrieve your credentials and use them to access your accounts. They can withdraw your money, lock you out of your accounts, and use your online persona to trick more people.
Another common technique used by identity criminals is phishing. They can create websites that look like login pages for legitimate sites. When you enter your credentials, you’re left with a useless site while they get to steal your data. Other digital forms of theft include sending you emails laden with malware, which scours your device for passwords and other private data.
Less sophisticated approaches also exist. Some criminals will sift through your garbage for documents from which they can glean information, such as credit card billings or tax forms. Sometimes, they can use public data about yourself, such as your home address or phone number, to gain access to your other accounts. This method is possible because many security questions ask for personal information that they can obtain, such as your mother’s name.
Identity theft can cost you a fortune, damage your credit score, and ruin relationships. Even when reported, it can take years to reverse the worst effects. Hence, prevention is of utmost importance.
Protecting Your Identity
One quick way to prevent identity theft is to limit the amount of personal information that you share online. When creating new accounts, use the least amount of information you can. Don’t share sensitive information such as your birthdate, complete home address, or phone numbers.
You should also secure the login credentials you use. Activate two-factor authentication whenever you can to make it harder to access your accounts. Use a secure network for your connections. Use long, alphanumeric passwords, and use a password manager to keep them safe. Finally, shred any physical documents before disposing of them.
Always remember that your identity is one of your most precious belonging. Protect it at all costs.