Did you know that over 8.5 billion accounts were estimated to be hacked in 2019? Identity theft is increasing at a staggering pace with no one, from the elderly and the young to even the dead, being spared by cybercriminals. Over the years, stealing personal and financial data has grown in complexity extending beyond financial gains to impersonating individuals for illegal and criminal activities, marketing purposes, for government propaganda or even to gain public benefits.
From phishing and malware attacks to even physical stealing, the threat of identity fraud is on the rise and, therefore, safeguarding yourself from these imminent dangers should be a top priority. So, here are 4 expert tips for you to protect yourself proactively from identity theft as you go about your daily activities.
1. Email and phone call safety
Unsolicited emails and phone calls are the most popular methods for phishing attacks, where you are prompted to disclose personal details by fraudsters in the guise of a known person or reputed organization like a bank or a government office.
So, be cautious when opening emails even when you recognize the sender, and avoid downloading attachments or clicking on links. Verify the credibility of any request for personal details by directly contacting the person.
It is equally important to be careful of phone calls, especially those claiming to be your bank looking to verify your account details or requests for your personal information to claim an expensive gift you have apparently won. If it’s an organization you recognize, call them back to verify the authenticity of the request. If it’s someone unfamiliar to you, carry out a reverse phone lookup using a people search site.
2. Password etiquette
With over 60 percent of people using the same password at least half the time, password vulnerability has become one of the top causes of identity fraud. Using the same, similar or weak passwords and neglecting their safety can make you an easy target for data hackers, regardless of the sophisticated security systems set up by networks.
So, first of all, ensure that you use strong passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols and opt for two-factor authentication where ever possible. Keep separate passwords for each account or profile and change them at least once a month. Avoid writing down passwords, saving passwords on browsers or sharing them. If you feel that one of your passwords has been compromised, immediately take action. And if all these sound daunting for you, use a reputed password manager software or app, which can help you to easily manage all your password needs across devices, from generating strong pin numbers, storing and automatically retrieving them to even regularly changing your passwords for added security.
3. Divulging limited information online
According to a Javelin Strategy report, having an active social media presence can increase the risk of becoming a fraud victim by 30 percent. Over the past 2 decades, social media has created a trend of sharing every intimate occurrence in their lives for many people. This has made social media platforms a breeding ground for cybercrimes, especially identity fraud, due to the easy access they provide to a vast amount of personal data.
If you want to protect yourself from identity theft, think twice about what information you share online. Avoid connecting with strangers and be especially cautious about photos you upload to avoid giving out too many details about your friends, family, workplace or where you live or hangout. Photos can easily give out much more information than you may think to identify your personal details.
The same principle applies when filling forms, creating profiles, taking surveys or giving out information on any other website. Once you disclose even simple details like your name and email address, you can never know where they will end up in. Also, be mindful of privacy settings and data protection policies of websites that request personal details.
4. Protect your documents
Whether it is softcopies or hardcopies, personal documents can easily compromise the safety of your identity if they reach the wrong hands. So, follow basic etiquette to manage important documents safely.
An important thing to remember is that even a simple receipt could disclose valuable information about you. So, ensure that you understand clearly how to recognize critical pieces of documents to protect yourself effectively from falling prey to an identity scam.
Never leave around important documents or throw them in a bin, and always use a shredder to safely dispose of them. Avoid carrying around important documents like social security cards with you and place them in a safe instead. Keep softcopy versions of documents password protected and avoid saving them in your laptop, computer or mobile devices to protect them from a potential cyberattack. Also, ensure that the security features of your devices are up-to-date as you can never be too cautious when it comes to protecting your identity.