Online crime nowadays comes in various shapes, and identity theft is already a major concern for many consumers worldwide. While users are being thoroughly educated regarding their online behaviour, researchers admit that online identity theft is on the rise.
Although it is not a new type of threat, identity theft is equally dangerous for both consumers and financial institutions. Recovery from identity theft requires huge amounts of effort, time and money to restore stolen identities and peace of mind.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is a form of online crime that enables fraudsters to pose as somebody else and take advantage of their clean records. Cybercriminals usually steal personal, contact or financial details and use them to commit fraud, steal money from bank accounts, open new credit accounts, and illegally obtain goods or other services (e.g. medical care) in the victim’s name.
“Identity theft” and “identity fraud” are often used interchangeably, but some researchers tend to emphasize a clear-cut distinction between them: the theft involves a cybercriminal that possesses your personal details – and may further sell or use them to make money, whereas fraud occurs when your stolen details are used by a disguised cybercriminal to perform illegal activities.
Online identity theft is on the rise
According to a study conducted in the U.S., identity fraud has an increasing trend, and affected 5.26% of U.S. adults in 2012. Although a similar study conducted in the UK reported that identity theft incidence decreased by 20% in the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the same period in 2012, the threat is real and these results should be regarded with caution.
Victims of identity theft and identity fraud are very often children or students, deceased people, smartphone owners, people who own social media profiles or wealthy individuals alike. Of course there are numerous situations when identity theft occurs as a result of massive data breaches, and ordinary users are totally out of control.
Sometimes it may take months or even a few years until people discover they are victims of identity theft and their personal details have been misused. But consumers can seriously limit the damage or even completely avoid it by being extra vigilant. We must not forget that cybercriminals are constantly seeking for new ways to accomplish their evil plans.
Tips on how to protect yourself
You never know when you or a family member may become victim. Which is why it’s best to take precautions. Here are some tips to protect yourself from identity theft and identity fraud:
- carefully consider the amount and type of information you share on your public online profiles
- be careful with whom you share your personal and contact details
- secure your online data by configuring strong passwords for your online accounts
- store your offline sensitive documents in secure places and use a shredder when you decide to get rid of them
- beware of fake websites that try to lure you into giving away your personal details
- install a comprehensive internet security suite, such as BullGuard Internet Security 2013 to protect your online activity and your PC.
If you’ve ever been victim or heard of people falling victim to identity theft, please share the experiences below. Join us in raising awareness about this threat!
Posted by Elena Ionica