October is National Cybersecurity Month, and this year, we want to educate our audience on the best tips for avoiding identity theft online. In 2021, the FTC reported 1,434,676 cases of identity theft which accounted for 25% of their overall complaints for the year. This staggering statistic shows that cybercriminals are not slowing down when it comes to fraudulent attacks against both individuals and businesses. In this article, we’ll give you some of our top suggestions for keeping yourself safe against online identity theft.
What is Identity Theft?
You may be familiar with the concept of a cybercriminal stealing your identity, but what exactly is identity theft?
Identity theft typically occurs when a criminal obtains access to your personal data and uses it to fraudulently impersonate you. In most cases of identity theft, criminals use your identifying information to gain access to your financial data, your private documents, and much more.
Criminals can manipulate your stolen information to open new lines of credit, use your medical benefits, or simply spend your money as if it were their own. Ultimately, criminals will use different methods depending on their goal and how they plan to use your data.
What are the Signs of Identity Theft?
Did you know that there are unique variations when it comes to identity theft? There are a handful of different types of identity theft that a criminal may execute, including but not limited to:
- Financial identity theft
- Medical identity theft
- Synthetic identity theft
- Child identity theft
In each of these different instances, the signs of identity theft will be unique. For example, one sign of child identity theft is that your child may begin receiving mail from credit card companies. Alternatively, you can spot medical identity theft through the appearance of unexpected bills or unpaid medical debt that you don’t remember incurring.
In most cases, identity theft takes the form of mysterious charges on your credit card statement, an increase in debt collection calls, and even notifications that you have taken out a new loan or opened up a new line of credit.
Identity theft can impact anyone, regardless of age, where they live, or what they do online. Everyone from your 5-year-old nephew to your 90-year-old grandmother can be victims of identity theft. That’s why it’s so important to secure your personal data. Below, we’ll show you how to do just that.
5 Tips for Avoiding Identity Theft Online
- Increase the strength of your passwords. Ensure that your private information remains securely hidden with more complex passwords. Make sure you avoid using any personal data in your passwords, such as the name of your school or your any other info that can be easy for a cybercriminal to guess.
- Use two-factor authentication on all of your accounts. Two-factor authentication is a process that requires you to verify your identity before logging into a website or an app. This practice is great for keeping your accounts secure and it provides you with enhanced privacy.
- Set up alerts on your banking website. In addition to regularly reviewing your credit card statements, setting up digital alerts with your bank can help you to eliminate suspicious activity on your account as soon as it starts.
- Install antivirus software on your devices. You may think that a computer virus won’t put your financial or personal information at risk, but many instances of ransomware and similar malware have caused serious issues for millions of online users across the globe. Antivirus software can help protect you against these attacks.
- Use a VPN to give yourself more security. With a VPN on your phone and computer, you can easily protect yourself from potential online risks. Using a VPN allows you to secure your identity and keep your private information from prying eyes.
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