Identity theft is a global phenomenon that is causing millions of dollars’ worth in damages each year. While in the olden days, physical access to a database or a person’s private information was required to falsify their identity, the internet has made the job quite simple nowadays. As such, it is becoming more and more difficult to protect against these crimes and this is why all of us have to be vigilant and ready.
Here we discuss in detail the ways in which hackers are stealing user identities and what can be done to keep personal data safe.
Rising rate of online scams
Identity theft cases have been reported in almost every country across the globe but the US average is something to talk about. Collectively, 33% of the American population has suffered cases of identity theft once. This number is twice the worldwide average. One in five victims say that they have experienced such an accident more than once.
The rate of identity thefts is so immense that there is a new victim of the crime every 2 seconds in the country. Even children are on the radar and in 2017, families had to suffer more than $500 million in losses due to stolen identities of kids. So far in 2019, Facebook and CapitalOne have been two of the biggest victims of data breaches with millions of user accounts and their information stolen.
This data ends up on the internet and become public domain for anyone to use. These cases of exposed consumer records saw a 126% jump in 2018.
The types of cybercrime you may come across
Besides hacking into servers and databases of renowned companies, cybercriminals have other means of targeting specific individuals and organizations too. Here are a few of the most common:
- Phishing: This process involves the hacker creating a fake survey page or sending a credible looking email with a questionnaire for the user to fill etc. These pages are so well designed that even the best of us can fall for it. They ask for private data which people sometimes enter causing it all to be sent straight in the hands of the hacker. Phishing can be done through a variety of other channels too,
- Malware: Viruses like ransomware, Trojans and general bugs are sent to a user’s device via email of displayed in popups during online browsing. All it takes is a click on the link or downloading a certain file that allows the virus entry into the system. Once this happens, the hacker can spy on the user and even siphon any sensitive information that they find. These viruses are unable to find unless after it’s too late,
- Hacking: This is where a cybercriminal tries to guess your password either based on some personal information of just randomly. They can also use more sophisticated techniques to break into your computer or sensitive data accounts online.
There are a variety of other ways to steal personal information too like physical theft of devices etc but these are the most common ones these days.
Ways to protect yourself from identity theft
Based on how frequent identity theft has become and the rate at which it is evolving, users have to be extremely careful. A few ways to protect your identity online are as follows:
- Stay vigilant: The first line of defense is always presence of mind from the user’s perspective. Ever since cybercrime saw a rise, companies that store personal data like banks send regular emails and notifications alerting users that the institution would never ask for their private data over phone or through email. Users have to be careful when interacting with any suspicious links or messages they find online especially popups,
- Ignore fishy emails: Email attachments have been identified as the most common way for planting viruses in a system. These communications usually contain documents in known formats like MS Word, Excel or PowerPoint. However, as soon as you download and open it, the malware gains entry into the computer. Make sure you verify the sender before opening any such email,
- Use a VPN: What is VPN? It is an effective service that masks your identity while online making all data traffic anonymous. This makes it almost impossible for any hacker to see what you are doing online. As a result, none of your information goes out and you remain largely safe from any hacking attempts.
Identity theft scams are a reality these days and they are only going to grow in the future according to industry experts. This means that users have to be extra careful and use services like anti-virus and VPNs at all times. This is the only way to keep yourself safe from heavy financial and emotional losses that may be caused by an identity theft scam.