Online Identity Theft: Meaning and Prevention Tactics

4 min read

We maintain a connection to the Internet around the clock, every day of the week. That equates to a total of 10,080 minutes per week during which a hacker has the potential to exploit your identity and cause you significant financial damage. Due to a lack of awareness, many people do not take the necessary measures to protect themselves from identity theft.

You cannot take for granted the importance of taking steps to safeguard your identity in today’s hyperconnected world. Our lives have become much less complicated because of the availability of online banking, shopping, and business transactions. Since we’ve become so accustomed to sharing everything about ourselves online, we’ve become far more vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of cybercrimes as well.

What is Online Identity Theft and How is Our Identity Misused?

What is Online Identity Theft and How is Our Identity Misused?

Identity theft is when one commits an act of fraud or other financial gains by impersonating another person by using their personal identifying information.

Your full name, address and phone number, email address, Aadhaar Number, driver’s license number, passport number, and bank number are examples of the types of sensitive information that are your personally identifiable information. Once criminals get their hands on this information, they might use it to steal money or sell it on the anonymous portions of the Internet.

In addition to draining your accounts, identity thieves can also open new credit lines, obtain utility services, steal your tax return, or use your insurance coverage to get medical treatment. When you arrest them for their crimes, they can also provide the police with your details.

For all you know, the history of data breaches may have already compromised your personal information. Given the current state of affairs, it is advisable to take precautions to detect and prevent the attempts of malicious individuals to make use of your personal information to get social benefits.

Exposure to your online identity can happen in different ways.

Phishing

Emails and texts sent by cybercriminals may appear to be genuine, but they are actually scams. By clicking on the links in these emails or texts, you open yourself up to the risk of downloading malware. Software can mine data from your computer and send it to a remote server. Cybercriminals can use this information to gain access to private data or sell it on the dark web. You should avoid clicking on suspicious-looking links, downloading material, or opening suspicious-looking emails.

Wi-Fi Hacking

Sometimes hackers create phishing Wi-Fi hotspots and give them names that are like those of real networks. Thieves may be able to see and use the data that passes through such malicious networks and use it to their advantage. Hence, before connecting to a network, always double-check that the spelling of the name is correct. When using public Wi-Fi to access your bank account, make an online purchase, or file your tax return, be sure to use a VPN as an additional layer of security.

Data Breach

Following a data breach, there is always the possibility that your personal information will be made available for purchase on the dark web. Thus, sometimes when there is a breach of data, the private information of millions of people is put in jeopardy. For example, in 2017, the personal information of as many as 147 million people may have been exposed due to a data breach at Equifax.

Injecting Malware

Attackers employ a variety of methods to successfully install malware on the device of another individual. After installing the malware, the criminal can gain access to the device and to the information in it. Viruses, spyware, trojans, and keyloggers are all examples of different types of malware.

Email Hijacking

Email is an easy target for hackers who are looking to steal your identity because it contains a lot of personal information. For example, one can commit identity theft by using a bank account statement with your account number or a tax form with your PAN number.

Steps to Prevent Online Identity Theft

To prevent identity theft, here are some simple steps:

Your Devices Should be Secured and Protected

Your Devices Should be Secured and Protected

Check the safety of your personal computers and mobile devices as the first step in protecting your identity and other sensitive information, such as financial details. Keep it up to date by installing anti-virus software. When logging into your accounts, use only networks that are secure and set up passwords on all your smartphones.

These days, most smartphones have fingerprint technology built-in to unlock them. Many banking apps also allow you to log in with your fingerprint. If you lose your phone or if someone steals it, this additional layer of security will help to keep your accounts safe by preventing unauthorised access.

Avoid Using Free Wi-Fi Hotspots in Public Locations

Avoid checking your banking information if you are currently outside in the public and connected to a public Wi-Fi network. In many cases, public networks are not encrypted. This makes it easy for hackers to access login credentials and other sensitive information. If you need to check your account information while you’re away from home, use your mobile data connection.

Use Strong Passwords and 2FA

The common belief is that longer passwords are more difficult to recall. However, there are simple ways to make your passwords more sophisticated. Think about writing out a phrase and then changing some of the letters to symbols or numbers. In addition to that, use a mix of both upper- and lower-case letters.

To keep all your different online accounts secure, you should try to use different passwords for each one. This way, even if there is a breach of one of your accounts, hackers won’t be able to easily access any of your other accounts.

It is recommended to use a Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) app to securely log in to all your accounts.  This prevents OTP and SMS-based phishing attempts and provides a much better way to log in.

Make Use of a Virtual Wallet

Use a virtual wallet app that contains encrypted digital versions of your credit and debit cards, whenever you pay for something in a store or online. You can use it for shopping, either online or at a checkout terminal. The transactions are tokenised as well as encrypted. This makes them completely secure.

Keep an Eye on Your Bank Accounts

Keep an Eye on Your Bank Accounts

Make sure to check your bank account daily and keep a close eye out for any unusual activity. You can set up alerts to get notifications if there is an occurrence of a suspicious activity on your account. 

An example of this: You use your debit card to buy something at a store in an unfamiliar area. Your bank will notify you to see if the purchase was authorised by you. If it was not, they will immediately block your card and work with you to get the money back.

Identity theft is a problem that persists in our world and in the lives of many people. Nevertheless, banking institutions are tackling the problem head-on to keep you, the customer, safe.

Every day new technologies and more advanced security measures are getting introduced and implemented. Yet, it is still up to you, the consumer, to keep your personal information safe. You’ll be well on your way to protecting your identity if you learn what to look for, make intelligent decisions, and follow the recommendations above.

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