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.
8 thoughts on “The 411 on dealing with online identity theft”
This is such a good reminder of the risks that we expose ourselves to on a day to day basis. I’m really bad at letting my guard down, and know that I’ve got to sort out the identity protection angle. Things will only get worse for us as we live more of our lives online.
A simple way of avoiding this issue would be to surf the web responsibly. Don’t sign-up to random sites that are promising things too good to be true. Check business sites on the better business bureau to insure that they are legit. Don’t post your information all over the web. I’m not a hacker but I don’t think they need too much to commit identity theft. Oh, and don’t open just any email that you receive even if it is in your normal inbox, could be a virus.
This is something that every person who is ever online in any amount of time should take heed to. Online identity theft is very real and very scary. The practices if taken seriously, will definitely help combat these criminals from obtaining your information. Keep your passwords safe and secure, too.
This is why the best thing to do is always use secure passwords, don’t give them out to anyone, and always check how much private information you’re giving out/making public whenever you create an account/make a post.
Sensible and straightforward advice, as always. Internet safety starts with ourselves. I never even knew that the UK had a dedicated cyber crime department so thank you for including the link.
Being proactive is the key here. Start by filling out all your internet form on https pages so that they’re more secure. A lot online identity theft is done through phishing. I always have passwords that are nonsensical, but not random letters and numbers either. Having random letters and numbers can be hacked through brute force. Nonsensical ones like ‘motherspacealligatorpowertargetcoupon48doubleDs’ are harder to crack.
Internet thieves are getting bolder and better. We have to protect our identity as much as possible. The other day my computer screen was locked and a message was put on the screen saying that I had a virus and needed to call this 1-800 number. I knew it was a scam and just powered off my computer. Also changing your passwords in mandatory.
Thanks a lot for the very useful article, I truly appreciate the fact David took the time to let us know what we should do if we suddenly become victims of identity theft. To be honest I had no idea what the first step was, not sure many people do. When something like that happens you feel too desperate and anxious to know what to do and where to look for info. Thanks 🙂 I hope I’m never in this situation, but if it ever happens I’ll know what to do 🙂
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