First, some professional statistics about identity theft and cybercrime simultaneously: In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission processed 1.4 million fraud reports totaling $1.48 billion in losses (source: Consumer Affair). Another study on cyber crimes from Symantec has to say this: According to a 2019 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec, cybercriminals are diversifying their targets and using stealthier methods to commit identity theft and fraud (source: Symantec). So, with all these official stats in place, one thing consumers should definitely be aware of, and it is that the identity thefts online will become more and more aggressive as the time goes by. With the advent of the digital era, if buying or selling a product/service has become quite convenient then some things have become quite complex to deal with as well, such as safeguarding your privacy and personal info while using digital services. And thus, the birth of cyber crimes occurred.
But the good news is that in this ever-growing digital web, we can continue to enjoy the convenience which it offers while keeping our identities and important personal data safe as well. We just need to follow some pre-requisites of avoiding identity theft online and we are good to go! Here are five of the best amongst them to prevent identity theft.
5 Methods to Prevent Identity Theft
1. Only Use Safe and Encrypted Internet Service -:
This is the holy grail of online safety. Not every place is the place to use the internet freely for sharing personal data or accessing confidential information. This applies well on public Wi-Fi, the most ideal network for cybercriminals to stalk their prey. Therefore, do not use public Wi-Fi internet services to access or share important data. Yes! You can use it to find your way in a new place or locate local services in an unknown city, but avoid using it for any other purposes than this.
2. Protect Social Security Number & Other Financial Data -:
The second place where you need to be strictly diligent and cautious is about accessing/sharing your financial data online. According to a 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report by Verizon, 76 percent of all data breaches online are financially motivated (what else it can be?). A thief always wanted only one thing, your money, and it is your duty to safeguard it properly.
In the United States, a Social Security Number is literally the most important official private data code. So, using it on devices or connections that you do not own is a certain no! Also, avoid using login credentials to your bank account, credit card account, or etc., on other devices/connections as well. Once either of these is breached, it will be hard to recover what you may lose and pretty much easier to regret afterward.
3. Do not Surf or Buy from Sites Without a Secure Payment Gateway/Connection -:
Needless to say, this is a fact most of you might have very well know. Ah! One second. You need to know about how to spot those sites or online store that are really unsafe, right? First, here are some signs you should look in a safe website:
- Look for the https:// before the site name in the address bar of the browser.
- See if the site has a label which says “Verified,” “Secure,” or “Trusted.” To check the legality of the sign, click on it and it should take you to the provider’s official page.
- Spot malicious and malware-like behavior. The easiest way to spot such a site is to look for forcing advert pop-ups, small ads that do not match your surfing preference; celebrity scandal, unusual “clickbait” titles, news or ads/links leading to sex tapes, celeb affairs, porn videos or get-rich/successful types of things.
While there can be more signs to seek out, but these are the most obdurate ones. Therefore, spotting either two of these signs missing from a website consider leaving it altogether.
4. Safe Emailing is a Must -:
Emails have now overtaken the traditional postal system as the standard for all email-based communication. This is why they always occupy the top place in the list of cybercriminals for fraud and phishing for identity theft.
The best way to avoid identity theft via email account is to not open any emails coming from any other entity, except your personal contacts or services that you use. Emails containing adverts, promotional links, or those coming from institutions/companies – governmental or non-governmental – particularly asking to create an account on their services or your login credentials, all of which should be strictly avoided.
You should instantly report them as “spam” and delete them from your account so that these unethical senders never compromise your confidential data.
5. Check it Up on Your Credit Report -:
If even after following the above methods you want to get further concrete confirmation of your identity safety, one of the most robust ways is to check your credit report. In the United States, there are a handful of credit reporting services you can access to get your free credit report – here they are:
After you obtain your report from either of these credit reporting agencies, you need to sit down and evaluate every financial data recorded in it. If you happen to spot any activity that you do not recognize or are just not sure about, get it reported to the reporting agency at once!
So, with these five tips to avoid identity theft – certainly far from complete – you can be sure of at least the most basic and fundamental protection layer covering your privacy and identity data significantly.