What is online identity theft? It’s when someone collects your personal information to open your online accounts, using whatever they find there for their own personal gain (or amusement). An identity thief can be anyone – it could be someone from a different country or even someone close to you. Identity thieves have different motives as to why they attack, from wanting to steal your credit card information to the desire to ruin somebody’s reputation and everything beyond and in between.
The proactive approach
To avoid getting into this unfortunate predicament, some of the things you can do is to make your email more secure, create strong and diversified passwords for each of your personal online accounts, and making sure that you are aware of the personal information that you divulge online – especially in our social media accounts where we end up being more candid about our personal lives than we think.
Also, be more discerning about the sites you visit and more wary of emails you receive, particularly those that ask you for personal information. One of the most common techniques used by phishing scams to get you to willingly give personal and credit card information is to stir up an emotional response from you. They do this by inciting panic or a sense of urgency (e.g. you’ve won the lottery or you have a virus infected email).
One of the ways identity thieves can also get information out of you is by breaking into your personal wireless connection network. Installing antivirus and antimalware software, or maybe utilizing OpenDNS and securing your wireless connection are just some of the ways you can prevent hackers from stealing information from you through your wireless network.
What if it’s already happened to me?
If someone already has access to your private information, here are the initial steps you should take:
- Place a fraud alert/freeze your account.
- Contact the institution responsible for the area in which your personal information was compromised. If your social media account was hacked, contact that website’s support. If your credit card information was stolen, contact your bank immediately.
- If you are in the U.S., contact the Federal Trade Commission and file an Identity Theft Report
- If you are in Canada, you can report to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC)
- If you are in the UK, contact ActionFraud
- If you are in Australia, contact Australian Federal Police Internet Frauds and Scams
Identity theft is a serious matter. This information only covers basic guidelines regarding this topic.