According to a report, 16.7 million identity theft cases were reported in the year 2017. It was a record high than the previous year. Identity theft cases are increasing every year. With the rise of digitalization of everything, now, criminals are targeting users to steal their identities online. For them, it is easy and sophisticated than taking someone’s identity offline. Security agencies aren’t yet appropriately equipped to catch the culprits of such cybercrimes. The best assistance we can get is to aware ourselves of this type of crime and follow proper guidelines to avoid it. Here in this article, you will know how online identity theft happens and how to protect yourself.
What is Online Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when someone steals a person’s information and then uses it to become that person. The criminal could take their money from banks or can do a crime with another person’s identity. The real person could get arrested for that crime. It was earlier when criminals used to sneak trash cans for information. Now things have been changed in the digital world.
Cybercriminals use several strategies to steal people’s information and then use it for personal gain. In the online world, information is readily available. Cybercriminals could look at your social media profiles to sneak your data, and they can also infect your computer using social engineering attacks to get confidential information.
Below are the methods that cybercriminals use to steal identity online.
The Methods of Online Identity Theft and How it Happens?
The methods of stealing an identity are not limited, there are lots of ways thieves could take your valuable information. Below are some common and most used methods of online identity theft.
Phishing is when cybercriminals send emails to several users pretending a financial organization or government institution. These emails create fear or curiosity among the users so that they take action mentioned in the email.
Such emails may contain an attachment. When a user downloads this attachment, it infects the computer with a keylogger or spyware that tracks every action of the user. Alternatively, this email can ask users to change their login credential as it has been compromised. When the user clicks the link given in the email and enters their current login details, cybercriminals get their hands on it.
The imposter is when thieve pretend to be someone else and get your personal information. Hackers could contact you with an email or online chat pretending to be an officer or as your known friends and then asks for information and then use it to steal your identity.
The Pharming technique is used to create a lookalike website that a particular user or group of users regularly use. Hackers could get into that website’s servers or can get access to the domain naming server to redirect the users to the fake site. When the user enters their confidential information like credit card details, bank login details, or personal information, it reaches the hackers.
Skimming is a technique to steal your credit or debit card. Hackers use a device that reads and records your card’s information. Hackers could swipe your card on the device, or they can install the equipment to the ATMs. Later they use this information to generate a duplicate card. They can use it to withdraw cash or can use it to purchase items in physical or online stores.
Hacking is when a hacker looks for security vulnerabilities in your computer or mobile device. They use these vulnerabilities to get access to your computer and then steal your valuable data. Hackers could also hack the networks and public hotspots to track your information.
6. Remote Access
Modern thieves try to access your computer via remote access so that they can look for confidential information. They may contact you via phone call or email telling you that your computer has some error and they need remote access to fix these errors. Once you provide the remote access, they may install a keylogger to your computer that will collect keystrokes and send them to the thieves. This type of attack is also called a tech support scam.
7. Social Media Attacks
On social media, you can’t be sure that a person is real or fake. Hackers could create an account pretending to be a bank or insurance worker, or they can hack the credential of your friend’s account. Then they will contact you asking for credit or banking details. They can also ask for confidential information about a project that you and your friend are working.
8. Malicious Software
Hackers bundle malicious software with legitimate ones when you download that pirated software. It also installs malicious software on your computer. With the help of this software, hackers could sneak for private information, or they can track your keystrokes.
How to Safeguard against Identity Theft?
There are lots of ways that someone could steal your confidential information. The best thing you can do is to follow proper guidelines so that there are no chances that a cybercriminal gets your valuable information.
1. Strong Passwords
Your passwords are the first and most important barrier between your online account and hackers. It needs to be strong and unique. You should use a password that is difficult to guess even for the computer programs that hackers use. Use different passwords for different online accounts. So, if one of your accounts gets compromised, then hackers couldn’t get access to other accounts.
Choose a password that has more than eight characters, the more characters you include more strong it becomes. Mix numbers, capital & small letters, special characters in it. You can use anything that is on your keyboard. Do not include your personal information such as your mobile number, your nickname, date of birth, and address in the password.
If you face trouble remembering a difficult password, then use a good password manager. Some password managers also help you to generate secure passwords also.
2. Don’t Share Information that meant to be Private
The second step of stopping thieves online is to make confidential and personal information private. If someone calls you on the phone pretending to be an official from your bank and asks you to reveal credit card details, then this is where the bell must ring. Real bank official never asks for username password or card details.
The same goes for social media. If one of your close friends is asking for confidential information via a chat, then you should use caution. Hacker must have got access to your friend’s account. Remember, don’t share such details at all with anyone.
3. Monitor your Transactions and Credit Report
Monitoring your credit card and banking transactions is crucial. Make it on your daily to-do list. If someone fraud you with these then you can quickly catch it in the statement and contact the respective officials in time.
Also, you should check your credit report from time to time. It is your right to get three free credit reports as per law. The credit report contains all the details of loans and credit cards using your identification. If you see anything suspicious that you are not aware then immediately contacts officials to have it investigated.
4. Think before you Click or Download
There are lots of websites on the internet that is designed to steal your valuable information. When browsing, don’t click on random links, they could lead you to a malicious website that may infect your computer with spyware and keylogger. Also, at the time of downloading something trust on reputed and official sites only.
Not all the emails in your inbox are legitimate and essential. There are millions of spam emails sent to users daily. These emails are like putting the bait in the water and waiting for some fish to take it. Don’t be a fish, verify before downloading an attachment or clicking on the link in the email. This attachment could have malware.
You can read our guide on online security of how to stay safe online.
5. Protect your SmartPhone
Your smartphone contains much personal and confidential information than your PC. The wallet apps, contact lists, calendars, and even personal photographs interests cybercriminals. You need to make sure it’s secure.
Don’t install bogus apps and never download an app from the unofficial website. Always download reputable apps from the Play Store in the case of Android and App Store or iTunes if you have an iPhone.
Also, install strong anti-malware that could protect you from modern thieves. MalwareFox antimalware is such an app. Its Real-Time protection immediately stops threats like adware, keyloggers, Trojans, PUPs, etc.
6. Check the Address Bar
Always ensure that you are at the correct address before entering sensitive information. Check the address bar and match the URL of the website. It would be wise if you memorize the address of your bank login page and other accounts. With this, you can avoid phishing and pharming attacks.
Check if the connection to your computer and server is secured. To ensure this, watch for https:// at the beginning of the address. The https tells you that your connection is encrypted and no one in the mid can know what information you are entering.
7. Install Strong Antimalware
Modern computer threats are evolving as they use various techniques to harm a computer. A simple antivirus is not enough for your security now. You need a security layer that is capable of dealing with these threats. Antimalware is your option.
Antimalware like MalwareFox provides you with better security against threats like spyware, ransomware, keylogger, Trojans, Rootkits, and even zero-day malware. It also helps you to avoid risks that are designed to spy on you like adware, browser hijackers, PUPs.
MalwareFox works on a heuristic approach to detect threats. It first scans the potential dangers with the signatures, and if not match then MalwareFox uploads it to the cloud for behavioral analysis. You can also use it with your current antivirus; it doesn’t conflict with other security suites and works independently.
8. Keep your Software Up to Date
Updates are crucial when a hacker exploits a security vulnerability of software; the developers fix this issue and release the update. So it is essential that you keep your operating system and other software up to date. Enable automatic updates for your operating system.
Online identity theft cases are rising, and if we follow the proper steps to protect our privacy, then we can avoid it. Following the above tips will help you to prevent such cases. Also, if you keep checking security-related websites like VirusPUP, then you will be informed of new emerging threats. Knowing of danger and how it infects the computer can help you to avoid cases of identity theft.