Nowadays there are more people online than ever. Plus, more and more users rely on e-commerce and online financial services. Also, we use more connected devices that listen and learn our habits while also storing important data.
Considering all these factors, it’s easy to understand why more specialists in cybersecurity speak up about the risks we undergo every time we go online.
However, these warnings are not meant to scare users from ever using mobile devices or taking advantage of the comfort of shopping online. Cybersecurity specialists only want to promote online safety for both companies and individual users.
In this spirit, today we are going to talk about ID theft (what is and how it happens) and why you should care about it.
What is ID Theft?
Identity theft (or ID theft) is a broad term that describes a situation where someone uses another person’s personal information to perform financial transactions, get bank loans, or buy products/services (among others).
ID theft is considered a crime in all civilized countries, but the development of internet-based technology and devices made it extremely difficult to discover it in time.
Plus, the online world allows cybercriminals to erase their footprints when committing ID theft, which makes it difficult for the authorities to identify the perpetrator.
How Does It Happen?
ID theft covers a broad range of personal information such as Social Security number, phone number, name, date of birth, location, and more. Some of this information are available publicly while others we make available ourselves by sharing on social media networks.
But there are methods cybercriminals can use to get the information that should be confidential as well. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Phishing attacks
- Data breaches
- Unsecure browsing
- Malware activity
- Mail and credit card theft
- Wi-Fi hacking
While no one can be 100% safe from various attacks, there are ways to improve your security. Good passwords and up-to-date software are the most basic steps one can take, but you shouldn’t stop there.
To increase your protection, use an ID protection service and two-factor authentication for your most valuable accounts (bank, email, governmental institutions).
How Does ID Theft Impact Your Life?
Sadly, ID theft recovery is quite difficult because most of the responsibility is placed on the victim. When someone gets hold of your ID, they can ruin your professional and personal life. Plus, you may never get to recover any lost money or assets.
Here are a few examples of how ID theft will impact your life:
Loss of Reputation
Someone who gets hold of your email account or social media channel(s) can post/send derogatory messages to your friends/followers. They can also harass your friends by asking for money in your name
Problems With the IRS
ID thieves can file fraudulent tax return claims in your name. Also, they may get a job under your identity, which will show as increased income at the IRS.
This means increased taxes and maybe an audit if the financial specialists find something suspicious in your recent activity.
If a thief gets hold of your bank account(s) chances are they won’t leave it intact. Also, they can use your medical insurance data to receive treatment (that you’ll pay for) or they may place orders for products and services in your name.
Things can easily escalate from here as ID thieves can also try to take a credit loan in your name or buy & sell assets.
Problems with the Law
You may wake up one day with the police at your door in order to take you in for questioning. They’ll start listing a series of crimes you’ve allegedly committed and they have as evidence your name, credit cards, and other similar tools.
How do you prove your innocence? This is a bit of an extreme scenario, but there is a possibility that ID theft may land you in jail if you can’t prove you are innocent.
ID theft is dangerous for the victims and can even lead to health and mental problems (due to increased stress and anxiety). That’s why data security is important for both businesses and individuals.
Also, it’s best to stay vigilant and perform routine checks on all your accounts, financial statements, and credit reports. This is where you’ll see any actions you never authorized, which may lead to the capture of a cybercriminal before things get too serious.