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Identity Theft on the Rise - How to Protect Yourself

Identity theft is a serious concern in today’s internet-oriented society, where cybercriminals can strike when you least expect them to. But that doesn’t mean to say you can’t overcome sophisticated criminal tactics. With a forward-thinking plan you can mitigate the risk of identity thieves stealing your information.

But safeguarding against identity theft means establishing a solid understanding of identity theft itself. With this being said, a logical starting point for protecting yourself is to create awareness, defining the term so you can recognize it in the future:

What is Identity Theft?

Also referred to as identity fraud, identity theft concerns the criminal behavior involved in illegally obtaining personal data for illicit gain. Once criminals have your hands on your information, they can apply for credit cards in your name, obtain medical care, steal your tax refunds, sell your information on and even withdraw funds from your bank account!

As an emerging issue in today’s digital landscape, general identity theft is punishable by imprisonment of up to two years! Common types of identity fraud include employment, credit card, phone, utility or bank fraud, all of which can generate dire consequences for the victim.

How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Protecting your personal data can require some forward-thinking. With preventative measures, you can minimize the odds of becoming a victim, achieved by building as many obstacles as possible for criminal access to your data.

Sometimes the best way to counteract fraud is by frustrating identity thieves, who are consequently more likely to give up and target those who are easier to exploit.

Let’s now address some of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft:

Mix up Your Passwords

If you use the same password for multiple electronic devices you’re asking for trouble. Cybercriminals bank on you doing so, especially when it’s consistent with your financial accounts too!

If passwords are reused too much, criminal access to multiple accounts becomes significantly easier. By mixing up your passwords you can prevent easy access for identity thieves.

You can even use a password tool, which can generate a different encrypted password for just about every account you use. In addition, for peace of mind and protection, it’s good to change your password any time you suspect an account has been compromised.

Avoid Suspicious Links/Websites

How often do you encounter a shady-looking link, which has been posted on your social media profile, sent via email or other text message.

Cybercriminals can easily pose as credible institutions like banks, mortgage lenders or credit card companies when all the while they’re an imposter out to steal your details.

Your best bet is to only click on the links you can trust the legitimacy of, those sent by people you know and trust. When clicked, some links will install software on your computer to continue the spamming process, others will phish your account information for illicit gain.

Always think twice before clicking a link!

Never Give Out Personal Information

Some fraudsters will pose as a credit card company or bank via the phone. In this case, they’ll attempt to extort financial details from you. However, it should be obvious when someone is trying to scam you, especially given financial institutions would never call and ask for private details!

Imagine a bank calling and asking for your social security or pin number? This simply wouldn’t happen, so using this awareness you can prevent yourself from handing information over. If you encounter a situation that seems legitimate, rather than proceeding with uncertainty you should put the phone down and call back.

By doing so you can confirm you’re using your financial institution's official number. It’s important to note that the IRS never calls people, so anything tax-related via the phone is almost certainly a scam.

Protect Documents

Any documents which contain personal information should be destroyed unless absolutely needed. Otherwise, you’ll be vulnerable to attacks, so why not invest in a good shredder?

These are cheap to purchase but will save you lots of money in the long run. The importance of shredding is exemplified by the tendency for criminals to steal information from rubbish bins or mailboxes. Yep, pretty sophisticated aren’t they!

It’s probably best to avoid leaving a trail of retail receipts, credit card or ATM since piecing paper back together isn’t beyond the realm of possibility. Either hold onto important receipts or shred them in a tactful fashion.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes.

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