What is Identity Theft and how to Avoid Becoming a Victim?


While technological advancement has achieved a great deal in terms of simplifying complex functions and making innovation truly accessible, it also brings considerable risks in terms of our identity and online security.

In this respect, the impact of technology depends almost entirely on the machinations of each individual user, with the rise of identity theft offering a relevant case in point. This type of crime reached record highs in 2017, as criminals manipulated technological and advancement to access user’s personal data online and steal their identity.

In this post, we’ll look at identity theft in closer detail, while offering some actionable steps on how to avoid becoming a victim of this.

What is Identity Theft?

 In simple terms, identity theft occurs when an individual’s personal details are stolen, including their name, date of birth and email address. This information can be sourced in numerous ways, but it’s increasingly likely that thieves will access your information online and use this in a number of alternative ways.

In fact, 88% of reported cases occurred online in 2016, and this trend is likely to continue indefinitely in the future.

It may be used to assume your identity and complete transactions on your behalf, for example, or simply access your bank accounts and make withdrawals. Either way, the threat is real and extremely concerning, and there’s no doubt that you’ll need to take proactive steps towards safeguarding yourself online.

 Here are some ideas to get you started:

 1.Always Choose a Strong Password and Update this Regularly

 We’ll start with the basics, as the most online sites and platforms are password encrypted and provide you with ample opportunities to protect yourself.

It’s your job to take advantage of this, initially by ensuring that you select a strong password for your social networks, online shopping accounts and virtual banking platforms. Try to include numbers and icons in your passwords where possible, and be sure to update these regularly and whenever prompted.

Also, avoid the temptation to save your password and login details online. This can be an open invitation to cyber thieves, so focus instead on logging your password information offline and in a secure place.

2.Never Give Information to Unsolicited Callers

 If you were going to create a financial plan and wanted to solicit the expertise of a professional, you wouldn’t hand over the reins to your bank account or e-wallets, would you?

Similarly, you shouldn’t offer any personal or financial details to unsolicited callers, particularly those who claim to be from your bank. This applies to both telephone and email correspondence, with caller IDs easily falsified by today’s generation of thieves.

If you do receive a call that claims to be from your bank, hang up immediately and dial up the establishment’s listed phone number.

Suspicious email correspondence should be flagged by your spam filters, but you still need to remain vigilant and refrain from replying to unverified messages from banks or lenders.

3.Verify Online Shopping Sites as Being Secure

 While the vast majority of retail transactions are still completed offline, there’s no doubt that ecommerce is gradually taking the world by storm.

After all, global online sales amounted to $2.3 trillion last year, with this figure expected to increase incrementally in the future.

The rise of ecommerce has also increased the number of illegitimate shopping sites, however, so it’s important that you inspect this before making a purchase. You should also only shop on sites that are Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certified, which can be identified by the lock symbol that shows up next to the browsers URL box during the loading process.

Additionally, try to shop on private, secure networks, rather than public alternatives available at libraries, coffee shops and shopping malls.