Identity theft is a crime where another person or a group of individuals obtain personal information, and illegally use these to impersonate others and obtain money, credit or merchandise from victim. Moreover, since another person has already utilized the identity of others, this individual could purposefully use the victim’s identity, in providing false identification to the authorities, increasing the victim’s problems.
6 Key Steps To Prevent Identity Theft
Shred everything containing personal information (before disposal)
Do not give out personal information to anyone of which you cannot verify their credentials
Don’t click on unknown email links – unsolicited emails are one of the top methods of fraud and deception (e.g. lottery scams, unclaimed inheritance cons, etc)
Protect you computer using well-known and top recommended security software (we use Kaspersky Internet Security)
Check your online/paper statements for credit cards and checking accounts for suspicious activity
When downloading & installing software (from download.com for example), take care to uncheck the additional installation of any adware, freeware, spyware, browser add-ons, etc (be diligent and read all steps of the installation process thoroughly before proceeding)
When your identity gets stolen, could give rise to other crimes as well, such as credit card fraud, and document or employment fraud. Although the traditional methods of obtaining another person’s identity and personal information are still practiced, the internet made acquiring identities easier and in large quantities. These thieves could easily use chat rooms, and viruses such as Trojan loggers that could transmit usernames, passwords, social security numbers and credit card numbers to these criminals.
Everyone is at risk of online identity theft from spyware and other forms of malware that internet users are unaware of and could be downloaded when they download files, software, visiting shady web sites and accidentally or purposefully clicking pop-ups. These spyware could look into the user’s internet history and programs he or she uses, collect personal information and silently transmit the information obtained through the internet. Online businesses are also common today, and they store personal information about their past and present customers, and in here, transactions are made with minimal personal interaction and there is a possibility that this information may be leaked or accessed without the customers’ knowledge and permission.
In a research study done by the Kaiser Foundation, children aged 8-18 years old spend 10 hours online on average, which makes them and their families vulnerable to identity theft on the internet since they are accepting friend requests, unknowingly downloading viruses and respond to scam messages coming from unknown and suspicious senders. There are also Facebook applications that require access into the user’s Facebook profile in order for the app to work well. In the year 2012, there were about 12.6 million Americans who have been victimized by identity fraud and on average, about $365 is lost by each victim.
There are a lot of obvious and easy to remember tips that could enhance privacy and prevent online ID theft cases. Buyers are encouraged to make transactions and purchase only through secure and well-reviewed websites with good identity privacy policies and online stores. Usually, a website with a closed padlock image before its website URL is a good indicator that it is a secure and safe site. It is also advised that usernames and passwords for all online accounts are unique, with a right mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers or symbols so that the thieves would find it difficult to obtain personal information and online accounts quickly.
Downloading and running antivirus programs and disabling internet cookies after completing an online transaction is another recommended precaution to prevent identity theft since it could free the computer or laptop from any malicious software or web site that may be looking to steal information. Another appropriate action in emailing would include not opening messages coming from unknown senders, immediately reporting and deleting spam messages, and not responding to emails, calls or text messages asking for personal information.
It is also recommended that the buyer or user knows the person or company he or she is transacting with, why this entity is asking for the user’s personal information and how these information are intended to be used. Users should also avoid divulging too much personal information on social media sites and networks such as posting one’s location and other activities in images and statuses online which would reveal much of the user’s way of living, addresses and workplaces.