How to Prevent Online Identity Theft?

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Information and communication technology has changed the lives of humans. The Internet makes it easy to communicate with people all over the world. Online shopping, sending information or documents through email, Internet Banking, online payment, online learning, e-business, etc all these tasks are all possible with just a few clicks and just because of the internet. To do these tasks through the internet every individual requires an online identity.

Security is the major concern in the online world. When we use the internet and do an online task by using our online identity then there is a risk of identity theft. In one of the recent studies submitted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2020, approximately 4.8 million identity theft and fraud cases were reported. Almost one-third of cases were scams that involved attempts made to apply and receive government benefits, and adding to that new credit card accounts scam were the next major identity theft.

In this article, let us try to get familiar with some of the important ways to prevent online identity theft.

What is Online Identity?

Online Identity or Internet Identity can seem as your characteristics and interaction when you use the internet. Online identity and real-world identity may be different because in the online world our way of representation or our characteristics are different from the way of representation or characteristics in the physical world. Your online identity may also differ from website to website.

For example, Amazon has established a partial identity for you as per the product you purchase online. In the same way, Yahoo Finance has also established a partial identity for you based on your stock records.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft can be defined as a kind of scam, deception, or cybercrime due to which someone lost his /her personal information such as username, password, banking information, social security number, credit or debit card number. Identity theft is most commonly committed for financial gain without your permission.

How is online identity being stolen?

Online identity theft generally occurs in the following cases.

  • When internet users fall for tactics such as confidence scams or phishing attacks. 
  • When you download any software/application which contains special malware. In process of downloading that software, the malware also gets downloaded on your computers or smartphone that steals your personal information stored on your computer or smartphone.
  • The use of insecure wireless networks is also one of the ways that may also cause identity theft. 
  • If you share your Internet banking passwords or ATM Pin Number with untrustworthy people then they may steal your online identity.
  • Identity theft may also occur when data records are breached on companies, government, and educational sites.

How to protect against Online Identity Theft?

Some of the important steps that can help you prevent online identity theft are given below –

Make effective use of Up-to-Date Security Software 

You can protect your computer or smartphone by installing Up to date security software. If your computer or smartphone is infected by malicious software then the security software installed on your device may help you to detect such type of malicious attack. Security software provides you a notification and informs you to take necessary actions such as deletion or removal of the cause of the attack.

Be smart and use Strong Password

Weak passwords are easy to crack by hackers especially when you use the same password everywhere. Once the internet hackers get to know the pattern you use for password creation, then it gets easy to crack the password and thus login to your bank or any other online account. Every financial institution suggests the creation of a strong password for their customer for the safe transaction of money. The suggested format of a strong password is given below –

  • Password should be at least 10 characters long.
  • Password should contain both one Upper Case Letter and a lower case letter.
  • Password Should contains at least one special symbol
  • Password should contain at least one digit.

Learn to spot spam or scam and ignore it

You should be safe from phishing scams. Phishing attacks may occur through the link that you received in email, over social networking sites, websites, etc. These links seem legitimate but when you click on these links then they transfer to a fake website. So you should avoid clicking on these links.

Use only a reputable website for online shopping

You should know about the online shopping portal before making any online purchase. It is always good if you know about the company’s ratings and business records. Never ignore its ratings and always look out for customers’ reviews. You should also check that they use a secure and encrypted connection for personal and financial information. The online shopping portal that you are using for online shopping should be SSL secured. Technically, it means that the shopping portal makes use of HTTPS.

NOTE: HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. (Hypertext transfer protocol).

Make habit of locking your phone

Some time you remain login into your email, social media, and another app account on your smartphone. It contains personal data including all of your contact numbers. You should use a strong authentication method to unlock your smartphone. These methods may be through biometric means like finger impression or face recognition.

Avoid Oversharing on a social media platform

It is very necessary to secure your social media accounts. Sharing your posts and pictures with your friends on social media account may be a cause of identity theft. You should check the privacy setting of your social media account.

Secure your Documents

You should always secure your important documents like birth certificates, tax returns, social security cards, etc. You may use a password to open your documents. The use of Encryption software is also a method of making the document secure. By using an encryption application, you can ensure that a snooper who wants to gain access to your computer won’t be able to read your sensitive documents. 

Always Stay Alert

You should be alert from online identity theft. You should be aware of some common signs of identity theft. These signs are as follow:

  • If false information is related to your credit reports, including your Social Security number, address(es), name, or employer’s name.
  • If you got a new credit card without applying for it may also be a step towards identity theft.
  • Sometimes approval of your credit card is denied or being subjected to high-interest rates for no appropriate reason may also be a step towards online identity theft.
  • Sometimes you may also receive calls for the payment of the due bills for products or services you didn’t buy. In this case, don’t tell your credit card pr debit card number.
  • You should think twice before using an unsecured network such or public wi-fi. The use of virtual private networks is the better option to protect your identity online.

As per FBI crime statistics, nearly on average 280,000 individuals roll identity theft-related complaints every year. So it is high time to protect the online identity and never get into any such trap that results in any financial or data loss.