Identity theft is a huge problem. Every year, millions of people have their identity stolen. This can lead to a lot of problems, including credit card fraud, bank fraud, and even imprisonment.
In this blog post, we will discuss 5 tips that will help you protect your online identity from theft. Following these tips will help keep you safe online and minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft!
Identity theft, though not usually a crime involving an individual’s physical safety, can still destroy a victim’s reputation and good community standing. It affects our entire persona, if you will. As if being a victim of crime is not enough, identity theft is distinctive as a crime in that there is an initial presumption of guilt. A victim must establish beyond “reasonable doubt” that they are innocent of any wrongdoing.
Identity Theft as a Crime
Identity theft is defined as someone acquiring another’s personal information – name, Social Security Number, credit card and/or debit card numbers, driver’s license, or other personal identifying information – and using it to assume that identity for unlawful purposes. The unlawful purposes usually involve some form of monetary gain.
However, there is a darker side to identity theft that can result in immeasurably more dreadful legal entanglements. Both criminals and terrorists are known to assume new identities to evade detection by law enforcement authorities. Crimes that are committed under an assumed identity are considered, at least initially, the work of the victim of the identity theft!
Few statistics about online identity theft
Although identity theft has been around for a long time, the federal government did not classify the act as a federal crime until 1998. Like all crime, statistics for identity theft are available from both government and private sector sources. Unlike most crime, identity theft statistics are difficult to report as statistically current.
Up to 18 percent of identity theft victims are unaware of the theft for four or more years according to an Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) Aftermath Study from 2004. Maybe you didn’t know, but:
From 2005 to 2009, 500 million records from government and corporate sources were compromised because of data breaches (Javelin Strategy and Research, 2009).
• Thefts as a result of stolen purses, wallets or hardcopy paperwork accounted for 43 percent of total thefts (Javelin Strategy and Research, 2009).
• Seven percent of all identity thefts were medical identity thefts. (AARP)
• In 2010, personal information thefts unrelated to money were 29.4 percent of total thefts (U.S. Department of Justice, 2011)
• Child identity theft occurs at the rate of 20,000 cases per year (reported by the FTC)
These statistics do not begin to represent all of the cases of identity fraud. It is estimated that each year there are approximately 2 million cases of stolen identities from the dead
If there is a positive aspect to be found here, it is that in 2010 the reported cases of identity theft dropped by 28 percent. Correspondingly, the losses sustained as a result of those identity thefts are lower. The bad news is that thefts related to smart phones and social media sources are trending upward (Javelin Strategy & Research).
Perhaps as law enforcement agencies improve their ability to identify and prosecute perpetrators, and government agencies and corporate entities continue to improve their security we can be hopeful that these numbers will continue to fall.
Tips to protect your online identity from identity theft
One way to protect your online identity is to create strong passwords. A strong password is one that is at least eight characters long and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using easily guessed words like your name or birthdate.
Instead, try to come up with a phrase that you can easily remember but would be difficult for someone else to guess. For example, “I love spending time outdoors” could become “Ilsto!” Once you have created a strong password, be sure to change it regularly (every few months) and never use the same password for more than one account.
Another way to protect your online identity is to be careful about the personal information you share online. Be cautious about what you post on social media sites and only share information that you are comfortable with others knowing. Avoid sharing sensitive information like your Social Security number or bank account number. Also, be aware of the privacy settings for each social media site you use and make sure that only people who you want to see your information can access it.
In addition to being careful about the personal information you share online, you should also be cautious about the websites you visit and the emails you open. Only visit websites that are secure (look for “HTTPS” in the URL) and avoid clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources. If you are unsure about a website, do some research to make sure it is legitimate before entering any of your personal information.
An important way to protect your online identity is to keep your computer and mobile devices secure. Install security software on all of your devices and keep it up-to-date. This will help to protect you from malware and viruses that could steal your personal information. In addition, be sure to create backups of important files in case your computer or device is lost or stolen.
Another tip for protecting your online identity is to be aware of phishing scams. Phishing scams are attempts by criminals to trick you into revealing personal information or login credentials masquerading as a legitimate website or email.
Be suspicious of any emails or websites that ask for personal information or login credentials. If you are unsure about a message, do not respond to it and instead contact the company directly to verify its authenticity.
Identity theft can have a devastating impact on your life, so it is important to take steps to protect yourself. In addition to following the tips above, you should also consider identity theft protection services like credit monitoring or identity theft insurance. These services can help to protect you from financial loss and provide you with peace of mind.
By following these tips, you can help protect your online identity from theft. Identity theft is a serious problem, but by taking precautions and being aware of the risks, you can minimize your chances of becoming a victim.
If you follow these tips, you will be well on your way to protecting your online identity. However, if you do suspect that your identity has been stolen, it is important to act quickly. Contact the proper authorities and take steps to recover your identity before it is too late. Don’t let identity theft ruin your life – take action today to protect yourself.