Identity theft around the world has reached a staggering £3 billion in costs. In the UK, 5% of the British people have fallen victim to phishing scams. It is reported that they lose around £100 each time this thing happens.
Furthermore, 3% of people in Great Britain said that they have experienced identity theft and 2% said that even their professional reputation had been compromised. In both cases, the average cost to resolve the problem amounted to around £100.
Despite of these reports, only 34% said that they limit the information they share publicly on social networks and the amount of personal information posted in other sites online. Thirty percent said that they adjust the network privacy settings of their social accounts.
Only 33% use a PIN or password to lock their mobile devices even though these devices contain an enormous amount of personal and even financial information. These figures come from the Microsoft Consumer Safety Index survey. 10,000 people were questioned as a part of the Safer Internet Day celebration.
The Internet has truly changed our lives in more ways than one. We use email to keep in touch with friends, loved ones, colleagues and clients. We share photos and videos with people across the globe. We do our shopping in the comforts of our home. We pay our bills conveniently whether at home, in the office or even on the go. Sometimes though, these activities put us at risk.
The best way to avoid online identity theft is to not use social networks, online banking, etc. But, that is not really realistic and possible. We live in an age of convenience and we want everything done quickly. In order to prevent online identity theft, here are a few tips.
Avoid Phishing emails and websites
A Phishing website presents itself as a legitimate business website but in reality is just a fake looking for your personal information. They may ask you for a username and password as well as your name social security number, address and other personal information. Watch out for sites that ask for the following information:
- Credit card number
- Bank details
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Home address
- Phone number
- Healthy insurance number
If you are in doubt of the legitimacy of a website, visit the company’s main website or call them to verify.
Use Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Programs
A number of viruses and malware can be installed in your computer or device without you knowing it. The only way to be sure that you are protected is to install both an anti-virus and anti-malware programs. Tech vendors now have solutions that include both.
OpenDNS can speed up your Internet connection. It also has a more practical application. It makes for a great content filtering solution. You will be alerted when you visit a website which is marked dangerous by the Phishtank service.
Criminals obtain your personal information by logging into your email and other accounts and get information from there. This is the reason why it is so important to maintain password security across all your online activities. Generate a strong password and then use Lastpass or Keepass to assist you in remembering them.
Shop at Reputable Websites
You should only shop at reputable websites but how will you know if a website will keep your information secure? You can run it through link checkers or run it by the Web of Trust that also provides a browser plugin.
Keep your personal information in social media at a minimum
It’s okay to use Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media as long as you are careful with the information you divulge. Don’t check into banks on FourSquare. This lets anyone know what your bank is and makes you an easy target for identity theft. You should not list your bank and other personal details on social media where people can easily obtain and use your private data.
Monitor your credit profile
Make sure that someone does not already have your information and is using it. The sooner you discover it the better. Get a free annual credit report service.
Secure your wireless network
This practice will reduce fraud and identity theft. If you leave your wireless network open by not using WPA encryption and passwords, your network can be used by a criminal without your knowledge. They can also view your online activities. This will allow them to build a detailed profile of you and your family. Even if some information is encrypted, many sites still do not encrypt login information. Just the website names alone can help give a criminal information about you.
Download software from reputable sources
If you download from a questionable site, they may include backdoors and Trojans that your anti-virus might not spot. Always be aware and keep your anti-virus updated regularly. Be careful with downloading games that you think are harmless. These are usually the ones that have virus and malware attached to them.
Use passwords in your devices
All your devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) should have strong passwords. When your device gets stolen, it is very easy for thieves to make a profile of you with the information that they can get from your device.
Choose your network
Never use online banking while connected to a public WiFi network. You should also avoid paying bills and online shopping when using free WiFi. These activities must only be done over a secure network such as the one in your home. Doing these activities in the office is also not recommended as you never know who is monitoring your computer activities.
Review your information
Review your online information periodically. Change passwords especially those for online banking from time to time. Read what is posted about you online. If you see any out of date or negative things, delete them immediately so you don’t project the wrong image.