In a world consumed by online technology and the internet, your personal information isn’t just easily attainable, but also always in danger. There are multiple ways your information can be stolen online. We’ve previously discussed the dangers of this happening when connecting to public/free Wi-Fi. Identity theft, most commonly associated with credit card theft or a compromised Social Security Number, has expanded in correlation with the all-over reconstruction of society to exist fully online. More personal data than ever can now be easily stolen by an online criminal or hacker.
Your personally identifiable information (PII) can be stolen through the aforementioned factors, or through the implementation of malicious software. Understanding how online identity theft happens and how to prevent it can help you stay vigilant and protect your data.
Identity Theft Prevention
There are a number of ways your PII can be stolen, but, fortunately, there are also ways to protect against them. Below are some examples of how your information can be stolen and how you can avoid it.
- Phishing: Cybercriminals send emails that claim to be from some sort of financial organization or any trusted institution in order to convince you to open the links or attachments that may require PII. Ignore these types of emails, as they are fake and just trying to steal your information. If you are worried, check with your bank or trusted organization, or go to the website, rather than opening up an unsolicited email link.
- Pharming: This occurs when your browser is hijacked without you knowing due to a virus. This can happen a number of ways. For example, you try to type a real website URL into the browser, but instead, you’re taken to a fake site that looks real. Here, since it looks legitimate, you enter PII, which the cybercriminals in charge of the site can then collect.
- Malicious Software: Schemers can try to trick you into downloading malware that can attack your device and even reveal your Think about buying online security software for your device to help protect against this. Also, be conscious to keep it up to date or you may become vulnerable due to bugs or insecurities..
- Unsecure Websites and Networks: Try to avoid online activities, especially shopping, on websites that aren’t secure. Use official websites (“https:” prefix) only, and use anti-virus software to avoid hackers getting into your information. Also, use secure wireless networks. Cybercriminals can easily tap into a public and unsecured network.
- Weak Passwords: Using the same password for multiple online profiles, such as both social and financial accounts, can leave your PII Try to use long, complex, and differing passwords for everything you do online. Check out this guide to creating strong and unique passwords if you need some help. You can also try utilizing multi-factor authentication for an extra layer of protection.
- Discarded Computers and Mobile Devices: Make sure to reset these devices to ensure all of your information is removed before discarding.
- Targeting Children Online: Children can easily, accidentally give out PII online. Monitor your children’s online presence, especially when personal information becomes a point of contention, to keep them and you safe.
- Limit Social Media: Be strict on how much PII you put on social media. The more you put out there, the more you can lose, so just be cautious.
- Monitor Bank Accounts: Make sure you monitor your credit profile/bank profiles. Much like the days when your credit card could be stolen on the street, online criminals can tap in through your phone or computer. Always be connected to a secure Wi-Fi when you access these accounts online.
- Don’t Auto-Save Information: While it may be convenient, saving card and bank information can be dangerous. Cybercriminals, hackers, and other third parties have the ability to tap into that information, exposing your account and anything attached to it.
A Step Further
Becoming aware of potential vulnerabilities is a great first step in protecting your personally identifiable information. There is also a long list of resources out there to educate and assist you in your data privacy and security journey. If you’re looking for helpful tools to try, check out the free Ghostery Browser Extension, which helps you browse smarter by giving you control over ads and tracking technologies to speed up page loads, eliminate clutter, and protect your data.