According to research done by the Aite-Novarica Group in their report ‘U.S. Identity Theft: The Stark Reality’, as much as 47% of Americans were victims of identity theft in 2020, which is a staggering figure to say the least. But what is identity theft, exactly? At its core, identity theft is the use of the personal information of another person without their consent for the criminal’s own gain, for their own benefit, or to harm the person they took it from.
In the digital age, as technology improves privacy and encryption, the technology available to thwart it grows more powerful as well. Identity theft is now a major issue in digital society. Throughout this post, we’ll examine the most common forms and dangers of identity theft, as well as how to protect yourself against the worst happening to you.
ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT
Although the most common form of identity theft is financial, where the fraudster makes financial withdrawals or loans under your name and leaves you to deal with the consequences, there are many other possible forms that this crime can take, from the mundane to the extremely complicated and almost literal. For instance, they might submit a fake tax refund in order to get the money, and then as a result the tax agency may falsely accuse you of fraud.
It is especially difficult to prove innocence in the case of crimes of this type since the perpetrator has assumed your identity or taken the action in your name, meaning that the crimes have been carried out at least legally under your name, and the false actions must be removed from among the real ones. Fraudsters may even combine parts of one’s identity with false or different information in a procedure known as Synthetic Identity Theft, which may make them even more difficult to track, as it may open an entirely new account with the same benefits as the original but under a different name.
However, the fraud may not always be committed by the person who is defrauding. Considering how common and complicated online identity theft has become, and how hard it is to track down, many people have taken to reporting false reports in recent years, claiming their money was stolen, their account compromised, or their credit score ruined by a fraudster, when this is not true. They might do this in order to clear one of their own loans, restore their credit score, or for any other personal gain.
Consequently, corporations and bureaus have become much more cautious and careful in the way they handle identity theft claims, which has in some ways made assessing the true severity of cases of identity theft more difficult and made victims less responsive to their claims. So, to act preventatively, and make sure that we never fall prey in the first place, it is important that all of us observe a few basic ways of remaining cautious.
Thus, to act as a preventative measure and keep from falling prey in the first place, it’s vital that we all adhere to a few basic precautions.
Do not reuse the same passwords across multiple sites. If you do this, all it takes is for you to lose your password once, or for you to log into a compromised site using that information, and someone with that information could access any of your other accounts or secure items. Ensure that the themes and compositions of your passwords vary, and either remember them or write them down in a safe location.
A classic form of identity theft, email phishing is one of the easiest ways to steal someone’s information because it convinces the victim to give over their information voluntarily. Check any unsolicited emails carefully for validity and genuineness, especially when they request details like bank account information for a deposit, identity documents to prove your identity, or any other relevant items related to the business or person they are pretending to be. Emails regarding surprising and unexpected matters, such as purchases you did not make, or prize draws you did not enter, are among the most common red flags of this, and should be treated as such.
Today, there are a wide variety of identity protection services available that scan the dark web for your details, from card numbers to email addresses, alerting you to suspicious activity and allowing you to secure your accounts and details before harm arises.
Be very, very careful with what you share online. Any information a person posts on the internet, whether it’s public or private, is very vulnerable. Your email addresses, name, address, and bank information can be skimmed of social media by robots and compiled into databases for later, malign uses, or for personal use by fraudsters.
Losing personal documents, particularly debit or identification cards, can have many negative effects, both as an inconvenience and as a risk for them to be used by petty thieves, but this concern is never more pertinent than when its information is manipulated on a larger scale or intentionally stolen. In the event that you lose a copy of a document containing your personal details, be sure to notify the appropriate authorities or departments so that if that document surfaces or a claim to be you surfaces, they will know that it isn’t you.
Use Two-factor Authentication whenever possible. Nowadays, most secure accounts offer this feature, which is a much better option than just a password for securing your account, especially since it requires authorization from your phone or other device every time someone accesses the account for the first time. In general, it is another layer of security that you can be very sure will make the job much more frustrating for any potential fraudster or hacker trying to gain access to your account.
As preventative measures against cybercrime become more widely known, it is hoped that the number of successful crimes will decrease significantly down the road, so now that you have been provided with this information, you should be prepared to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself. Keep smart out there, and stay safe in the online world!