According to identity theft statistics, there were 13 million data breaches in 2019 which is slightly lower than 14.4 million in 2018. The numbers are even higher in 2020 and 2021. All these data breaches cost businesses more than $3.5 billion in terms of losses.
What is even more alarming is the fact that 10% of Americans have become a victim of identity theft fraud while 21% have become the target of identity theft more than once. The US is not alone. Identity theft in the UK is becoming a serious threat with more than 500 cases being reported every day. The situation is not much different in other parts of the world either.
How can you protect your identity from getting stolen in such a station? Here are five questions you need to ask and answer in order to prevent and respond to identity theft.
- Who are The Prime Targets of Identity Theft?
To protect yourself from identity theft, you first need to understand the mentality of attackers. Put yourself in the attacker’s shoes and think who you will target for identity theft? What objectives do you want to achieve by launching an identity theft fraud? The more you get into the head of attackers and understand how they are thinking, the easier it will be for you to protect yourself against identity theft.
What type of customers is most lucrative to target? Where is the identity information stored? Is it in the database or the best dedicated server? Answering all these questions will give you a clear picture of who is more likely to be targeted. In most cases, cybercriminals usually target customers and employees of companies so they can steal their sensitive information such as login credentials or financial information such as credit card and social security numbers.
- Do Identity Theft Only Target People Who Submit Information Online?
Another misconception many users have is that users who willingly share their information online can only become the target of identity theft, which is not true. Even if you have never used a computer, you can still become a victim of identity theft fraud because hackers use multiple channels to target victims. They can listen to your phone calls, get their hands on purchase slips, restaurant order slips and more and spoof key information from there.
It is a common practice for businesses to store their customer information in a database. If cyber attackers somehow manage to gain access to that database, they can easily steal and use the personal and financial information of thousands of customers to their advantage. Some might even sell all that information and make it difficult for cybercrime investigation agencies to identify and punish the criminals.
- How Do You Know That Your Identity Has Been Compromised?
Most companies who store customer data notify their customers whenever any such incident takes place. All you have to do is to keep an eye on your account activity. Here are some of the warning signs that your identity has been compromised.
- Unexplainable charges on your bills
- Receiving calls for products and services you have not bought
- Suspicious new account appearing on your credit report
- Unexpected denial of credit card
- Not being able to access your account
- What Steps You Can Take If You Suspect Identity Theft?
Let us assume that your identity has been compromised, now what? What steps can you take to minimize the damage? Recovering from identity theft is not easy as it not only costs you financially, but it can also be a long and painful process. Reacting quickly is key to success. Do not waste any time and report the incident to the concerned authorities. The faster you react, the more chances you must come out of it unscarred.
You can contact government, investigation agencies or even credit reporting agencies. If you have accounts with different companies, you should also contact them too. For instance, if you live in the USA, you can also get in touch with the social security administration, the federal trade commission and the United States department of justice for guidance on how to recover from identity theft.
- What You Can Do to Prevent Being a Victim of Identity Theft?
Despite all the advancements in cybersecurity, no one can guarantee safety from identity theft but there are ways you can minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Make the most of security features
- Check privacy policies
- Be extra cautious when making information public
- Use antivirus software with firewall
- Constantly monitor your account activity
- Always do business with reputable companies
Instead of relying solely on passwords, it is highly recommended that you switch to secure authentication methods such as fingerprint, face, iris scanning. If you can not get rid of passwords, make sure to implement multi-factor authentication. Yes, this might make the login process a little more cumbersome but from the security standpoint, it is a step in the right direction.
Always double-check the company you are doing business with and make sure that it is legitimate before sharing your personal and financial information with them. Some attackers pretend to be legitimate businesses creating malicious websites to collect financial information and abuse it to fulfill their malicious designs. Carefully analyze your bank and credit card statements as well as credit card reports. If you see any discrepancy, report it immediately to the concerned authorities and don’t waste any time.
How do you deal with identity theft attacks? Let us know in the comments section below.
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