Identity theft is not a joke. In fact, it’s one of the most common byproducts of severe cyberattacks that steal the user’s personal data – from name to Social Security Number. Once in the wrong hands, a person’s information may end up on Dark Web and other sketchy Internet places where people get false identities.
Identity theft often results from cyberattacks like phishing, which tricks the user into revealing sensitive information to an unreliable source. In the case of phishing, the user isn’t aware of the scam because the hackers use the most advanced methods to deceive the victims. They commonly present themselves as reputable companies whose services the victim uses, writing quite authentic emails and creating websites that seem genuine (at first glance).
The best way to prevent identity theft is to implement efficient strategies to strengthen your system and protect yourself from sophisticated ransomware attacks and similar. And this post explains how.
What is Identity Theft?
Users can become victims of identity theft through various exploits. Instead of old-fashioned ways like spying on your bills or mails, today, identity theft involves more online activities:
- Downloading malware on your computer or smartphone
- Processing payments through an insecure wireless network
- Sharing passwords with untrustworthy individuals
- Data breaches
- Phishing attacks and Internet scams
Once stolen, your identity is commonly sold on dark corners of the Internet jungle. It can be used for various mischievous activities that could cause severe issues later.
Below are the expert-approved methods for protecting yourself against advanced threats resulting in identity theft. So let’s dive into them.
- Generate Strong Passwords
Weak passwords, like your birthday or pet’s name, are a piece of cake for a hacker. These passwords are pretty easy to crack, especially if you use them to protect your essential accounts – email, social networks, or banking apps.
A password manager is the best way to create an impossible-to-break password. It’s a feature-rich, easy-to-use, and budget-friendly tool that generates strong passwords for your essential accounts, helping you prevent unauthorized access, data breach, cybercrime, and online threats resulting in identity theft or data loss. In addition, you can choose among a broad range of free or paid solutions and enforce your protection from online scams.
Remember that passwords are the most vulnerable spot. Don’t let cybercriminals use your own password against you but generate a solid one no one can guess. In addition to password managers, we recommend you enable two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security to your sensitive accounts.
- Learn How to Recognize Spam
The only way to protect yourself from spam and scam is to learn how to recognize them. As we already mentioned, phishing is one of the most commonly used scams for identity theft. While some phishing attempts are easy to spot, others are more sophisticated and, thus, more authentic.
As a rule of thumb, never click the links from an untrusted source and never download email attachments that seem shady. You can install many email filtering options to keep phishing emails away from your inbox and block senders recognized as unreliable.
Either way, if the message seems too good to be true, it isn’t. Keep that in mind when you receive the next “free coupon for Cuba.”
- Be Careful When Paying or Ordering Online
Online payments have become a necessity, especially during the pandemic. However, we must do it wisely.
First, never use a public Wi-Fi connection to make a purchase or pay the bill. An open Wi-Fi network is a perfect place for a hacker to perform malicious activities and steal your personal and financial information.
Second, online payments shouldn’t be made on HTTP sites. When the page lacks the SSL certificate (HTTPS), the communication between the client and the server is insecure – therefore, all your sensitive data is visible to hackers.
Generally, try to avoid HTTP sites whenever you can. They pose a massive risk to your security on the Internet and can be a step closer to identity theft.
- Keep Your Software and Operating System Up to Date
Obsolete versions of your operating system or an app open the door to many vulnerabilities the hackers can’t wait to exploit. Since every system update comes with added security features to protect you from the newest forms of cyberattacks, it’s essential not to ignore this step and ensure you have all the procedures in place to prevent data loss or identity theft.
Although system updates don’t guarantee a 100% safe digital environment, they reduce the risks of zero-day attacks and sophisticated threats that could bring severe consequences.
- Use VPN
Virtual Private Network (VPN) works by encrypting your Internet connection, making it unreadable to hackers. It creates a tunnel that allows you to use the Internet with peace of mind, even when you’re making purchases or browsing the web. Besides encryption, VPN connects you to a random server located anywhere in the world, hiding your real location from website owners and hackers.
However, not all VPN solutions are heroes. We highly recommend you stay away from untrustworthy providers who offer poor-quality software you cannot rely on. For example, a low-quality VPN may leak your actual address once the connection is lost, leaving you unprotected and exposed to potential hackers.
On the other hand, free or demo versions offered by prominent brands in the industry are entirely safe to use. The only downsides would be a limited set of features and the speed, which might not meet your expectations.
To stay protected from identity theft and cyberattacks leading to it, it’s quintessential to stay alert and look for potential signs of scam or fraud. Always remember that no reputable organization (a bank or a service provider) would ever ask for your personal information via an email or a link included in a message. If there is any problem with your account, you’ll be asked to come to their premises.
Never reveal your personal or financial data to untrusted sources, stay away from unprotected websites, and you’ll be safe from identity theft and an array of other online threats.