Gone are the moments when you would hear screams in a town metro from someone who had been robbed their wallets.
Today, we are facing a serious technology-based felony including internet identity theft.
In the twenty-first century, the eruption of cool digital systems is enabling easy access to leisure content, information, global news, and health tips among others. Nevertheless, the cyber gateway poses another risk of our details getting known by the wrong people, and later being robbed.
Online identity theft is affecting millions of people across the globe annually and happens when cyber-attackers steal one’s identity – by accessing their private identifiable details – in a bid to commit criminal activity.
Online identity theft occurs in numerous ways by either planting infectious malware on to victim’s computer – compared to the primitive ways, like stealing someone’s wallet.
One’s personal identifiable information (PII) includes items like driver’s license, financial details, and other private details used to distinguish one’s identity – which could enable criminals to appear as the victims of identity theft.
If the criminal gains entry to their peculiar private data such as the social security information, they can enter details in job forms, file returns, and request for benefits – all in another person’s details.
Identity thieves apply numerous high-tech ways to steal one’s personal information.
Table of Contents
- 1 What are the Types of Identity Thefts:
- 2 Consequences of Identity Theft
- 3 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
What are the Types of Identity Thefts:
Some of these tactics include:
Identity thieves send a message through emails or phone numbers purporting that they work for reputable companies, luring you to open some attachments or click links to provide your personal information. It’s critical to shun unsolicited requests and online messages.
Identity thieves use malware to hijack your computer. Here, you may be redirected to a malicious website that appears legit, and criminals will collect your personal information without your knowledge.
This includes malicious software used by criminals. Identity thieves lure people into downloading malware capable of attacking their computers and disclosing their personal information.
4. Insecure Sites:
These include virus infected websites that appear legitimate. Upon inserting one’s personal information, identity thieves steal it and use it to perform criminal activities.
5. Weak Passwords and Personal Identification Number (PIN) :
For financial accounts increase your vulnerability. If possible, use the multi-factor authentication where a set of credentials such biometric information and face recognition are required.
6. Unused and Discarded Devices:
Discarding your mobile device or PC without wiping your personal information exposes you to identity thieves.
7. Children Online:
It’s easy for kids to disclose personal information on the internet unknowingly. For instance, what is daddy’s name? Where does daddy work? Does daddy have a car? It’s important to stay vigilant and monitor what our kids are doing online.
PII is considered a goldmine to cyber-criminals. Cyber-attackers will steal personal information such as names, mobile numbers, credit card information, and even passwords and use them to commit fraud or other criminal activities like selling the information.
The consequences of internet identity theft range from only annoying to tremendous and costly damages.
For instance, when a fraudster steals your mobile number and they keep sending random calls proclaiming they are salespeople, the effect is not dire as someone who loses thousands of dollars from their bank account.
Dreadful instances of identity theft comprise serious damage to one’s good name, missing out in scholarship and job application lists, losing a significant amount of money, etc.
Generally, victims of identity theft suffer financial toll, emotional toll, physical toll, and social toll.
Consequences of Identity Theft
1. Financial Loss
Loss of finances is considered as the most dreadful effect of identity theft.
In most times, fraudulent buying done by using the information of a stolen debit card is catered for by the victim’s bank account.
It becomes even more painful when the victim realizes that the process of recovering their money is difficult. Often, victims are left financially ravaged.
The lost money can take a long time to recover or may end up being completely lost.
If the activity turns out to be very complicated, legal fees would be paid to purchase expert advice.
Regarding the kind of information accessed by criminals, some of the hurdles victims will encounter in their recovery process include:
- Disputing the acts committed on their credit or debit card by the identity thief and rushing to replace the card(s).
- “Cleansing” the infected bank account(s) and applying for another one.
- Cooperating with officers from the social security department if the criminal used their social security information to secure a job
- Collaborating with the tax officers if the criminal used their details to obtain a tax refund.
Identity thieves can steal people’s personal information to take over their businesses or even their bank accounts, compromising their retirement benefits, mortgages and even their children’s education funds.
Losing one’s personal information is not an easy way.
Identity thieves may not use this information soon; they can wait for even a couple of months or years until when the victims are not attentive to the risk.
They can as well sell this information to their counterparts in the DARK WEB. So, it’s critical to stay alert and pay a close watch for red flags.
2. Emotional Toll
Identity theft is a faceless criminal activity that triggers a couple of emotional feelings.
Victims of identity theft suffer from emotional torture upon realizing that their personal information has fallen on the wrong hands.
The initial feeling a victim of identity theft feels is anger.
After this shocking instance, several souring and long-lasting emotions would arise.
Emotional devastation involves frustrations, rage, isolation, shame, and fear of their financial and physical safety.
In severe cases, some suicide cases are reported.
A criminal that steals one’s PII could commit criminal acts using their name that can directly destroy their good name and be had to redeem. For instance, when applying for employment and criminal records appear, this will ruin not only your opportunity but also your self-esteem. This may end up being arrested for offenses that you didn’t know.
Victims of identity theft end up blaming themselves, their friends and family members for failing to watch who gains access to their personal information. Oftentimes, perpetrators of identity theft remain anonymous, causing a feeling of helplessness as justice will never get served.
Moreover, while cleaning up the messes of identity theft, victims suffer from emotional distress that disrupts their sleeping and eating resulting in seclusion and depression.
What if your information was used to borrow money and the creditor calls to collect their debts? It is challenging to clean up your name.
3. Physical Torture
When an identity thief uses someone’s name to commit an offense and law enforcers arrest them (one’s whose identity is stolen), that becomes highly stressful. Before the victim clears their name, they may have suffered some physical damage like physical assaults.
In some cases, victims could lose their homes and their mortgages would get affected. If their employment is affected, they could lose it.
Cleansing one’s name from criminal charges can cost someone their finances and their assets as well.
A criminal who has access to their social security information may have access to their medical benefits and this could also affect their medical records.
4. Social Toll
Through the internet, hackers can access PII like email and social network passwords.
People who rely on social media for their occupations or apply it to stay connected with their families and peers can suffer from reputation damage when their social accounts are hacked.
Ways to Prevent Identity Theft
1. Securing One’s Personal Information
Personal records must be protected.
When disposing of documents that contain your personal information such as old CV, reports, insurance forms, medical records, charge receipts, or worn out ATM cards, it is always wise to tear them up.
Employers should ensure that people working at their offices or homes do not have access to their personal information.
At the workplace, it is critical to ensure that personal documents containing sensitive information are shredded completely before disposing them.
When dispensing money in an ATM, always remember to take the card before leaving the booth.
2. Protecting Personal Information Online
People should avoid putting their sensitive personal information such as their dates of birth, places of work, phone number anyhow on social media platforms.
Also, you should mind the type of information you give to strangers. Also, do not click links or respond to emails that ask your personal information without confirming their authenticity.
3. Putting Limitations to What We Carry
It is not necessary to move around with all your credit cards, ATM cards, social security card, and identification card without the need of them. Losing these types of credentials with the subject you into identity theft.
4. Using Passwords and Changing them Frequently
When creating a password for different online platforms, it is wise to use character patterns that cannot be guessed by hackers. People should desist using the most obvious patterns such as abcd… or 1234…
5. Determine whether the Records are Affected in Case of a Data Breach
When a data breach is suspected, always determine whether there is some information stolen from it.
If the debit card was involved, monitor the account or block the card to avoid further fraudulent activities.
If you find that your credit card or social security card was stolen from you, remember to place a credit freeze.
Stealing one’s personal information can be devastating in many ways.
If you suspect some information has been stolen from you, respond and seek assistance quickly to minimize the effect.
Depending on the sort of information stolen from you, reach out to the relevant authority such as banks, the police, or social security agency.
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