ONLINE ID THEFT
Back in the day, your wallet or purse being stolen was the biggest fret to your economic standing. Yes, the economy could crash and many other rare things could have happened, but someone getting your cards and cash was a terrifying idea. Times have however changed, and the digital age has taken over all aspects of our lives. Technology and the internet have opened doors to digital shopping, banking, trading, investing, and entertainment. But, as millions of Americans a year find out, that door opens both ways.
What is Online Identity Theft?
Identity theft used to happen in the real world when someone gained access to your social security number and used it to open bank accounts, make purchases, and claim a tax refund. Online identity is slightly different. Having your identity stolen online happens when a fraudster steals your identity by accessing your PIIs or Personal Identifiable Information to commit fraud. Your PII can include your:
- Driver’s License Number
- Social Security Number
- Bank Account Numbers
- Passwords for websites with your registered cards.
- Any sensitive information that can be used to identify you
When they gain access to this information they can commit crimes, take credit cards, open bank accounts, file tax returns in your name. Needless to say, if you don’t know how it happens and doesn’t follow your accounts close enough, identify theft can nearly destroy your finances and your credit score.
How Does it Happen?
Whether on social media, online stores, or online finance management sites, we regularly trust our personal information to our phones and computers. Through the use of high-tech and more classic tactics, fraudsters gain access to the information you shared online. There are few methods which are used most commonly:
- Malicious Software: This is the method that requires the thieves to trick you into downloading malicious malware. The malware is used to attack your computer to try to find your PII.
- Phishing: In this method, cybercriminals send countless emails, pretending to be a financial institution or a trusted business or organization. Through attachments and/or links, criminals attempt to steal or ask you to provide your PII.
- Unsecure Websites: Do not enter your information to websites or apps that are not secure. Avoid any website with the “http:” prefix. Only use “https”
- Pharming: Method that requires hackers to use a virus to hijack or take control of your browser. Taking you to fake websites to get you to enter your PIIs.
- Weak Passwords: Online financial websites or reputable online shops have a very high level of security, while most other websites store less important information and do not require the same levels of security. This is why it is vital to never use the same password for your social and financial accounts online. Hackers gain your password from your social accounts and if it’s the same as your financial sites they gain complete access.
- Accessing Discarded Computers and Phones: Unless you did not properly wipe your phone or computer before discarding it, cybercriminals can attempt to access that information from those devices.
Online identity theft can result in major losses and will require a lot of work to recover from. You will have to prove that you did not make any of the transactions and about a million other things to move along on the path to recovering your money and clearing your name. Use the correct protection for all your electronic devices, and make sure to use long, unique and difficult passwords for any and all accounts that contain any of your personal identifiable information.