All your online activity builds a ‘digital footprint’ that fraudsters can abuse for identity theft a crime which involves impersonating someone, usually for financial gain. In the last decade, criminals have been given a new opportunity to gather the confidential information they need from the vast quantities of personal data that is transmitted online.
To protect yourself from identity theft, there are two main things you can do: make sure the systems you use to safeguard your information online are secure and be very careful with the personal information you upload to the internet.
Personal confidential information that can be used for identity theft includes bank account numbers and other details, passwords, your address, social security number and email addresses. Fraudsters can get all this information using spyware such as keyloggers. To secure your information, your computer should have up-to-date antivirus software with antispyware and a good firewall. You should also follow safe practices when using online services that require you to submit confidential information: use secure networks and encrypted connections, have strong and effective passwords – changed regularly, and be cautious with where you submit data online.
When using social networking sites, make sure you use the privacy settings available and avoid putting too much personal information out there. Most personal information stored online is public by default, so unless you change your privacy settings, your social network page will show up in any web search.
Every time you use a web service, or upload photos, your digital footprint grows. If a fraudster is able to collect enough information about you from different sources, they may pose as you to fraudulently acquire services such as bank loans in your name. Your date of birth, address and mother's maiden name are common banking security questions – this information can all be acquired relatively easily if you put it online. Once gathered, such information is known to be traded amongst criminals to perpetrate identity theft.
It’s also worth considering that your ‘digital footprint’ can have other implications beside identity theft –universities and prospective employers use social media to find out background information about applicants. Be extremely cautious with how much information you give away about yourself online, and always spare a thought to who may be able to find it and how it could be used.
What is a rootkit?
What is a keylogger?
What is ransomware?
What is spam?
What is a Trojan horse?
What is phishing?
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