Identity theft can be defined as any crime, scam or deception that causes the loss of personal data such as; credit card numbers, banking information, usernames, passwords, etc. that are then used to commit fraud or any other crimes. Online identity is very common in the UK today as well as many other places. Identity theft is, in fact, the most common crime online today. Identity theft causes serious problems. Besides losing your hard earned money, identity theft can also damage your reputation causing other problems such as a poor credit score. You can even lose job opportunities when your identity is damaged online since most companies conduct thorough checks online before they employ people. If your personal information has been used to commit crimes online, your chances of getting a job are very slim. Clearly, identity theft is a serious problem. Considering you have to use your legal name and credit cards among other personal details online today, how can you protect your online identity from fraudsters?
1. Keep your computer and Smartphone security software up-to-date
Since using computers and Smartphones is inevitable today, you must go out of your way to ensure you have installed the best/latest/updated security software always. This tip is very effective but commonly overlooked by most people. Identity thieves exploit outdated security software in computing devices and plant malicious software that steals all kinds of personal information. The importance of investing in the best security software can’t, therefore, be overlooked. Although most people focus on installing the best security software on their computers, you should do the same with your Smartphone if you use it to transact online or engage in any other activities capable of compromising the security of your identity online.
2. Use strong passwords/change your passwords regularly
This is another obvious but commonly overlooked tip for protecting your identity from fraudsters. There are very sophisticated programs today that are capable of cracking passwords so, it’s important to think hard before you set a password. Although it can be a daunting task setting different passwords for every single activity you engage in online, it’s highly advisable to do so for security reasons. Never use the same password twice. Your passwords also need to be long (more than 10 characters) including a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols, and numbers. The password you use should also exclude your personal information such as your date of birth, age, legal name, etc. You should also change your passwords regularly.
3. Be vigilant (learn how to spot/avoid fraudsters/suspicious activity online)
You should also be on the lookout for fraudsters. If you’ve used the internet for a while, you should be aware of common fraudulent activities online. Ideally, you should be on the lookout for anything that doesn’t feel right. For instance, never click on unsolicited emails/links. You should also ensure you login to secure websites only. Secure websites are labeled nowadays when you check the address bar so it shouldn’t be hard verifying if you are logging into a secure site. You should also avoid clicking on pop-ups or registering for free products/services using your official email. It’s also advisable to avoid accessing sensitive online accounts using public computers since such computers tend to have malicious software. It’s also advisable to buy things from reputable websites only.
You should also be on the lookout for common signs of online identity theft like; inaccurate information on your credit report or receiving new credit cards you haven’t applied for. Exercising vigilance constantly when using the internet is very important since fraudsters are constantly looking for ways of scamming unsuspecting internet users. If you don’t know much about online fraud, start researching today.
4. Never give your personal information to anyone online or offline before you verify their credentials
Identity theft can take place offline when you give personal information i.e. your name, address, email, phone number, bank details to anyone or organisations before you verify their credentials. Although it usually takes plenty of time and effort to verify the credentials of every single organisation or person you give tour personal information, it’s worth the trouble.
Protecting your identity from fraudsters is very important today given the fact that almost everything is done online today. Most people do their banking online, correspond online, interact online, buy things online, etc. Considering the internet has become part of our daily lives, the importance of protecting your identity can’t be overlooked. You are bound to waste time and effort implementing the measures discussed above. However, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Effects of online fraud i.e. poor credit scores can prevent you from getting loans or cause you to pay high interest rates for payday loans among other types of short term loans. You also stand to lose money and job opportunities if you don’t take measures to protect your personal information online.