“5 Surprisingly Easy Ways We Let People Steal Our Identity.”(From our Forums.)
Text originally published by Lyton Atinga on the Cyber Secure Central Forums.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that not less 17 million Americans were affected by identify theft in 2014 alone. That was 5 years ago meaning that the number is even more worrying now. In fact, insulating ourselves from identify theft is becoming more of a hassle as cyber criminals become smarter.
And if you haven’t noticed yet, most identity theft cases revolve around financial information.
I am talking about credit and debit card frauds and fraudulent use of personal information to, for example, open new financial accounts. According to the BJS, the latter case turns out to be the most disastrous. When personal information is fraudulently used to open new accounts, BJS says, people affected experience a lot financial problems in the future. In addition their relationships and emotional wellbeing will be highly damaged.
At the end of the day, we are all victims to identity theft by default. There are a lot of situations where we are supposed to give up sensitive information to other entities like banks and medical providers. Although it is a necessity, the moment you do that, you lose control of your information and how it might be used. Although we trust the organizations we entrust our personal data with to protect it, they are also vulnerable to cybercrimes.
In the event a data breach occurs, neither you or the organization have any significant control over what might happen if sensitive information is stolen.
However, there is a difference when it comes to the extent to which each one of us is affected. In as much as some situations like data breaches affecting companies we use are out of control, there is a lot we can do on a personal level to ensure that we hold identity theft at bay.
The problem is, sometimes we make it easy for scammers to get hold of our personal information and impersonate as. It is true people are becoming more conscious of their privacy especially online but there are little mistakes we make that mark us targets for identify theft.
I have covered below 5 of the most common ways people give information to scammers without realizing.
1. Accessing the Internet over public or insecure Wi-Fi networks
I know, taking advantage of public Wi-Fi networks is a temptation you can hardly resist. Whether you are enjoying a latte at Starbucks, reanimating at a public park, eating out at some fancy restaurant, or waiting for your flight at the airport, the moment you get notified that a public Wi-Fi is available, you are on steroids. You will immediately think about taking a quick peek at your social media accounts or reviewing your PayPal account.
The truth is, you have to be weary of these networks. One way to protect yourself is to install a VPN software so that all of your internet traffic is encrypted.
2. Posting personal information on social media
This is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself to identity theft. The amount of personal information people post on social media sites nowadays is alarming. In fact, we are now sharing every bit of our lifestyle on social media making it extremely easy for scammers to get hold of our information.
We literally giving identify thieves access to our information without them breaking a sweat. Sensitive information don’t have to be your bank account details or social security number. Just sharing your full names, birthday and where you come from or where you went to school is enough for thieves to impersonate you.
3. Carrying your Social Security card with you
For the sake of convenience, people prefer to carry their social security cards with them at all times. You never know when you need it. Although this is understandable, it is also very risky. Two things might happen: you lose your wallet or it gets stolen.
In both cases, you would not merely have lost a wallet. If it gets on the wrong hands or it is stolen, the amount of damage that can be caused is tremendous. For once, the information in there is enough to enable a person to steal your identity. They will have access to your credit cards, money and driver’s license. That more than enough information for someone to impersonate the hell out of you.
Likewise, you should never write you social security number on a piece of paper or save it on your phone. You will still be making it easy for the wrong people to access it. If you lose that paper or your phone the same story will happen.
Your best bet is to simply memorize your SSN and lock away anything that might contain sensitive financial information.
4. Unknowingly giving your personal information to scammers
This has happened to a lot of people. Someone calls you claiming to be from your bank and asks for sensitive personally identifiable information like your social security number. Since they sound very nice, professional and genuine, you decide to send it to them.
Likewise, you might get an email asking for important details. The email looks legit and you believe it is definitely from your bank. You click on their links and give up important information.
The truth is, a trustworthy and credible organization will rarely ask for sensitive information through emails or unsolicited calls.
So, whatever you do, make sure that you confirm with your institution as to the legitimacy of that email or call. Most times, you will find out that the bank never made contact with you.
But once you give out the information without thinking, you immediately become a victim of identity theft.
5. Letting online retailers save your credit-card number
Every time you register with an online retailer, they will often ask for permission to save your credit card number. This is usually meant for convenience so that next time you buy something, you won’t have to type it in again.
Although this is reasonable, it can also greatly jeopardize your identity and financial life. In case the retailer is hacked and vital information is stolen, you will probably fall victim. So to be on the safe side, just type in your card number every time you are buying something and never let the retailers save it.
The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of Cyber Secure Central. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article lies entirely with the author(s).