Living in the digital age is nothing short of amazing. All at once, you have the entire world at your fingertips, communication is open, and e-commerce is readily available. Unfortunately, there’s a downside. With the increase in technology and its proliferation also comes an increase in cyber security issues, cybercrime, and identity theft. The latter of these issues is particularly prevalent. Anyone can become a victim of identity theft if their personal information gets exposed to the internet or they become the victim of some kind of attack. Fortunately, there is something that you can do about it. Today, we’ll explore some tips on keeping your identity safe in the modern digital age.
Identity Theft Is Still a Major Threat Today
Identity theft is a prevalent and significant issue affecting many people today. But what is identity theft, and why is it a concern? At its most basic definition, identity theft is the act of stealing someone’s personal information. Names, credit card numbers, social security numbers, addresses, medical records, and more can be compromised when this happens. Identity thieves then use the information to open new accounts, apply for credit cards/loans, and make many fraudulent purchases (unless they just sell the data on the dark web). Dealing with the fallout of identity theft is a nightmare and will continue to be a significant threat in 2023.
Identity Theft Statistics
Over the past few years, identity theft attempts and the selling/exchange of personal data by thieves online have grown considerably. According to experts in the field, citizens reported over 800,000 complaints of cybercrime (many of them involving identity theft) to the FBI in 2022. 2022 was also an insanely prolific year for identity theft, as it had the second-largest number of data compromises in a single year. How far did it reach? It affected over 422 million people. The Federal Trade Commission also received numerous complaints about identity theft and payment fraud. All of these statistics point to one thing: identity theft is a pervasive threat and something we must prepare ourselves for moving into the future. As technology evolves and develops, more people use e-commerce, online banking, and other vectors where theft can occur. That’s why it’s so essential to find ways to protect yourself from identity theft now (more on that in a moment).
Identity theft has plenty of different causes. Sometimes, identity theft happens when someone physically steals a wallet or purse that contains identifying information (credit cards, IDs, debit cards, etc.). Occasionally, a person leaves their credit card lying around, and it gets swiped. Sometimes, thieves install skimmers at gas pumps, point-of-sale systems, and ATMs. These devices record a card’s PIN and other data, allowing criminals to steal from the cardholder’s account. That’s one reason the FBI recommends only running your card as credit and not inputting your pin. It’s also recommended to pay inside instead of at the pump. Skimming can happen anywhere, so the only valid defense is to be vigilant and use common sense. There are hacking and phishing attempts, of course. In these scenarios, an email message or website might appear to be legitimate and convince you to input your personal information. You might unwittingly give your information to a hacker when you submit it. Viruses, such as spyware and keyloggers, can also compromise your information and put it into hackers’ hands.
Guarding yourself from the dangers of identity theft requires some heavy-duty metaphorical armor. In this case, you’ll need a full-on arsenal to protect yourself against identity theft. Start by shredding paper bills, financial statements, and anything else with your financial information. Regularly monitor your credit reports and financial statements. Avoid sharing sensitive information over the phone. Use strong passwords and multifactor authentication. Using a VPN when browsing encrypts your data, making it a fantastic way to stay safe online. You can also freeze your credit to prevent unauthorized access. You must act quickly if your identity or financial information has been stolen. Report it to law enforcement and immediately contact your creditors/bank. That way, you can take the first steps toward mitigating any damage in the unfortunate event of identity theft.
Using Security Software
Protecting yourself from identity theft isn’t always simple, but plenty of tools can assist. One of them is security software. Using security software can help with more than just identity theft protection and safeguarding your data. It also helps protect you from viruses and other threats (like worms, spyware, malware, and Trojans). Security software can also help you protect yourself from other online threats like identity theft, financial fraud, and credit card fraud. It’s also ideal for anti-phishing protection. However, software with identity theft protection tools can only get you so far. You must still be vigilant online and practice safe browsing habits. But a little bit of vigilance goes a long way and can mean the difference between having your information stolen and staying safe online.