Online Identity Theft

Protecting your identity in a digital and mobile world.

Technology didn’t create identity theft. Before computers, cell phones, hot spots, and the internet, thieves could snag your drivers license, steal your social security number and use your identity to run up debt in your name.

At the same time though, identity theft has gotten more prevalent and more widespread thanks to technology. After all, the more convenient it is to shop and bank online, the more personal information you store electronically – and the more opportunities fraudsters have to profit.

Online identity theft comes in many forms

Here are all the types of threats that exist online:

  • Email phishing scams that convince you to provide information
  • Malware that gets install on your device through a download
  • Fake or unsecure websites where you enter information into forms
  • Desktop cloning and keylogging that track what you do

There are also data breaches that attack the electronic databases of retailers, consumer  services, government agencies and even the credit bureaus, themselves. And even when you use your card in person, there’s still a threat of digital theft. There are card skimmers that can steal your information from an ATM or any swap machine.

Tips for keeping your identity safe online

Even though there are plenty of external threats that you can’t control, there are steps you can take to protect your identity and data.

  • Use unique passwords for all of your accounts
  • Make sure passwords can’t be easily used – and for the love of credit, don’t use Password1 or 123456 (or something equally ridiculous)!
  • Change your passwords frequently – ideally, every few months or so
  • Don’t leave accounts open online if you don’t use them – especially if they contain any personal info or financial data
  • Never, ever email your Social Security number, driver’s license number or bank or credit card account numbers
  • Don’t trust email that asks for the above info – it’s a phishing scam
  • Only shop secure websites that you can trust
  • Don’t give someone access to any financial accounts you have online, including PayPal – this happens a lot more than you’d think, especially if you’re letting someone sell stuff on your eBay account
  • Make sure to keep have comprehensive antivirus software on your computers and you keep it up to date

Connectivity means opportunity

Another big problem tech has caused for people don’t take enough precaution with public networks. In this one situation, paranoia is probably a good thing.

Ever have the feeling you’re being watched? Well if you’re on a public network of any kind (a network at your office, an unsecured wireless server in your house, or a mobile hotspot) then yes, there’s at least some change someone is watching you.

Being too careful online means there’s less chance for your identity to be stolen. So, it’s important to limit what you do when you’re connected through a public space:

  • Don’t bank or shop online using a mobile hotspot… even if it’s your own. They’re too easy to break.
  • Password protect your wireless servers for your home
  • Try not to shop or bank online at work… just leave it for home
  • If you have to bank online at work, at least tell your bank it’s a public network – you usually have this option when you’re verifying your identity to log into your account
  • Do not shop or bank online while sitting at your favorite coffee shop, public park, library, etc. Public networks make it too easy to follow your activity!
  • Pay attention to scam alerts and subscribe to some kind of service that notifies you of new scams so you can take action early.