Identity theft is a growing problem in the internet age. Many specialized identity theft solutions are available to consumers – but is finding the right identity theft protection solution the best way to protect yourself? Or can you prevent identity theft without paying for a specialized service? Read on to find out.
Identity theft is when someone steals your personal information – like your name, Social Security number (SSN), identification number (ID), or financial details – and uses this information to commit fraud.
Examples of identity theft include using your credit card to buy items, faking a mortgage application, taking out a lease, or applying for a passport in your name. These fraudulent activities can damage your credit status, and restoring your reputation can take a while.
The most effective way to protect yourself from identity theft is to exercise caution in your everyday activities and use a combination of cybersecurity tools. While you will find many specialized identity theft protection solutions online, they are typically reactive rather than preventative.
These may mean securing your internet connection with a trusted VPN, using an antivirus on your devices, choosing strong passwords, and maybe opting for identity theft insurance that’ll help you in the worst-case scenario.
Identity theft protection is an umbrella term for any service that helps protect people from identity theft.
Identity theft solutions vary in scope. Some companies will monitor your credit card report and send you activity notifications. Others offer more comprehensive coverage, including detailed reports and helping you recover your stolen identity. For example, the company may take care of replacing your credit or debit card and credentials that someone has stolen.
However, identity theft protection solutions don’t prevent your personal data from being stolen. They will notify you once it has already happened, helping you detect fraud quickly. That said, identity theft prevention is vital – and it lies with you.
According to a study by NordVPN, hackers can earn as much as $17.3 million from stolen personal data by selling it on the dark web. Thieves can steal your identity from any place that contains your personal information, like unsecured websites, corporate and government databases, pieces of mail, social media, and cyberattacks. This information may include your birthdate, fingerprints and DNA profile, driver’s license number, SSN, and bank details.
Unfortunately, the chances of becoming a victim of identity fraud are high – especially if you live in the US. If we combine statistics from a 2019 Javelin Strategy & Research report with identity fraud complaints collected by the FTC, we can see how prevalent this crime has become.
In 2020 alone, identity fraud resulted in losses of more than $56 billion. The amount of cash stolen seems to be directly linked to and driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the $400 million lost in COVID scams, 70% has been attributed to identity theft.
Analyzing the statistics, we can see that a lot of identity fraud requires socially engineered campaigns to exploit the vulnerable and unfortunate. The techniques hackers use to steal your private information are specifically made to play into a victim’s fears.
One of the main examples of socially engineered campaigns is clear in America — phony government benefits. Stimulus checks have become a feature of life in the US during the pandemic. And it’s easy to see why so many fall victim to stimulus scams; when an email comes through offering a life-saving cash injection and all you have to do is enter your name, address, and bank details, you might not think twice.
Several types of identity theft exist. Let’s look at some of the most common ones:
A data breach occurs when someone gains unauthorized access to a company’s data. The hottest commodities for hackers are full names, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers. There were 540 data breaches in 2020 involving businesses, hospitals, government services, and millions of citizens’ private information, most of which is sold on the dark web for a few dollars.
Avoid websites without the S in “https” in their URL. “S” stands for secure, which means that the site encrypts visitors’ information. Unsecured sites will leak your information to hackers lurking in the network, or sometimes to the shady owner of the website itself. Also, avoid public Wi-Fi, as it’s rarely secured. You can also increase your level of anonymity by choosing a more anonymous browsing option. If you want to secure your connection, use a VPN (short for Virtual Private Network).
This is when a scammer changes their caller ID to make you think it’s your bank, for example. After making up a bogus scenario, they’ll demand your banking details, personal information, and anything else they desire. To soothe any concerns, hang up and call your bank directly.
Long before most things went digital, identity thieves intercepted the postal system, hoping to find credit cards, bank statements, and other personal documents. Avoid sending personal information in the mail and always shred important documents — rummaging through your trash is not beneath an identity thief.
Did you know that your card could get cloned at an ATM (automated teller machine)? Identity thieves place a skimming device over the card slot that reads the information from the card’s magnetic strip and transmits it back to the scammer. Your details can then be used to make purchases. It’s worth educating your children about card skimming and identity theft.
By now, you can probably see how easy it is to get your identity stolen. But how do you know if it actually happened? Here’s what to look out for:
By the time an identity theft protection app has notified you of suspicious activity, it could be too late. If you want to know how to prevent identity theft, here are 6 quick tips to protect your identity:
The best identity protection is vigilance, which is essentially what identity theft protection apps offer. If you secure your personal information online with a VPN, use super-strong passwords and pay attention to your finances — you’ll have much less to worry about.
The most important thing to do is to act quickly. Here are the steps to follow to rectify the situation:
Yes, it is worth getting identity theft protection if you need help with early fraud detection. However, identity theft protection services are typically reactive rather than preventative. It’s best to take the situation into your own hands and do everything you can to prevent identity theft from happening in the first place.
The price of identity theft protection software varies and can cost anywhere between $10 and $40 per month. Some advanced identity theft protection services may cost even more.
Yes, if you choose a reliable provider that takes user safety and security very seriously.
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