Let’s start with the facts. If you aren’t careful about your online presence, meaning your online privacy and cybersecurity, you might become a victim of identity theft. We’ve all heard of theft before, as this is something we’re taught as kids.
We’re taught to watch our backs and our belongings at all times. Thieves are everywhere both in the real world and, unfortunately, in the online world as well. Now, there are several types of theft. One of the most common forms of theft that you may not realize is the theft of your identity. This type of theft, as we said earlier, occurs everywhere. What is more, it can be seriously damaging to people and even entire families. Naturally, crime is always lurking behind the corner whether it be an individual criminal or a group of criminals working together for quick ill-begotten gains such as profit, power, or otherwise.
You may not have been a victim of identity theft yet, but the fact is that you don’t have to be a high-profile or high-value figure to fall into a trap and have your identity stolen online. This has happened to millions of people all over the world, and there are horror stories about online identity theft every day circulating the news. Fortunately, though, we can affect our online cybersecurity and privacy easily in contrast to the real world. After all, online identity theft is related to our digital foes. With a few common sense steps and some tools, you can practically eradicate the possibility of identity theft.
What is Online Identity Theft and How Do You Fight it?
In the real world, thieves can physically steal documents belonging to you and forge them. They can also dupe you into street scams, steal your credit card information or passport information, and much more (i.e social security number theft and medical information theft). Theft is never a good thing however you look at it, and unfortunately, it occurs every minute of every day.
As far as online identity theft goes, several things can happen if you are not protected and don’t have internet best practices down to the tee. Some of these scenarios are;
- Your online accounts can be hacked if your passwords are easy enough to guess and manipulate
- If you overshare and post your private information everywhere online, for instance on social media, you are asking for trouble
- If your devices aren’t cyber-secured with the proper tools, you might run into identity theft
- If you don’t practice common sense on the internet, again, identity theft will find you eventually
- If you aren’t subscribed to an identity theft monitoring service, maybe it is time to do so!
In 2020, over 2.2 million Americans reported online identity theft. In Europe, identity theft affected one in five people making it the second most common type of fraud in that region. Other regions like South America, Asia, and Africa certainly do not fare better, so we can say that tens of millions of people, at the very least, are affected by identity theft every year. It is sad to think that, had all of these millions of people been cybersecurity and used a bit more logic when it comes to their protection, these numbers would have been much lower! Then again, the truth is, that all of us can fall for identity theft once in our life.
Here are some more specific identity theft you can fall victim to;
- Account takeover (ATO)
- True Name Identity Theft (TNIT)
- Synthetic Identity Theft (SIT)
- Medical Identity Theft (MIT)
- Criminal Identity Theft (CIT)
- IRS Identity Theft
As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Well, how do cybercriminals even get your info to orchestrate identity theft? Here are some ways that happen, via;
- The trash/garbage
- Spying on your screens in public
- Phishing scams
- Direct hacks such as Man in the Middle (MiTM) attacks
Now, what can you do to stop all of these horrors affecting you and your family (or even spilling over into your wider community)? We’re about to tell you exactly what you need to do.
To limit even the possibility of online identity theft affecting you, think about the following;
- Securing all of your accounts with (different) long and complex passwords which you will note down on a piece of paper and store safely
- Do not overshare information about yourself on social media
- Do not overshare information with any third parties you are unaware of or suspicious about
- Never interact with emails that are sent from a source that is unknown to you or seems suspicious
- Subscribe to an anti-identity theft program such as Lifelock, Identity Guard or IdentityForce
- Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to lock any scammers or criminals out of your internet connection for good
Why a VPN Is Key
Online identity theft can occur when your connection is intercepted. To stop this, you need to use a high-grade Virtual Private Network application. These are provided by several providers today like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Cyberghost, Mullvad, and a few others. A VPN, in effect, encapsulates your internet connection in a protective and anonymous cloud. This way, what you are doing online cannot be ‘sniffed’ which is crucial to stopping identity theft.
Other than a VPN, you must heed all of the information above and remember that you are never ‘average’ enough for identity theft to not affect you. Cybercriminals and scammers today will harvest what they can, even if it means stealing your identity and a few hundred dollars from your accounts just for the heck of it (or to use later).
Finally, how do you know if you are a victim of identity theft? Here are some shocking ways to find out;
- If you are denied a loan
- If you fail an employment background check
- If you get arrested or stopped for an outstanding warrant that has nothing to do with you
- If you are denied health insurance for unknown reasons
- If you receive tax alerts filed under your social security number
- If you are contacted by a debt collector for debts you do not owe
- If you notice strange bank withdrawals
- If you stop receiving bank statements
- If you receive delivery notifications for orders you did not make
- If you get emails alerting you of unusual account activity