At least once per day, we're seeing examples of digital identity theft. Most well-known cases of such crime are using a person's pictures to create fake social profiles, purchasing items online by pretending to be a different person and similar situations.
Identity theft produces a financial loss of a whopping amount - 50 billion USD per year. In recent years, companies were established with a focus on fighting this kind of crime.
Yet the ordinary person does not usually decide to invest in such a service to secure their identity.
What steps can be taken by a single person to take care of their identity?
We will provide 5 essential elements that you should consider.
Never unveil your personal information
People always tend to think that acquiring personal information is some kind of hacking operation. But in real life that is rarely the case. Scammers might use legit-looking surveys with regular questions inside. Without even noticing you might be filling personal information like insurance or personal ID numbers.
After knowing sensitive information, e.g. your mother's name, house number or driver's license number, a hacker can easily start accessing your accounts.
This information is sufficient for the scammer to reset your password and login. In this case, it is not only you that is threatened by this crime, but also your social network that the fraudster has access to.
Verify your social network
In the previous tip, I mentioned harm to your social circle by unveiling your personal information. But there is also a threat caused by your own connections.
Just like in the real world, you should become friends that aren't honest or seem to have fake personalities.
But why do we often accept friend invitations from unknown people or join groups that do not match our views? It is estimated that around 280 million profiles on Facebook are fake. So fake users on Facebook accounts for almost the whole United States population.
Make sure that your friends and connections lists on social media accounts consist of only persons that you truly know. Of course, it is impossible to have only people known in real life, but take an extra step before accepting friend requests from unknown profiles. In most cases, just a quick profile overview will help to identify whether the user is real or fake.
Being friends with fake users who might seek to steal your sensitive information is not a good idea. Hackers will gain credibility through your network and finally will try to take over your account or get sensitive information such as personal IDs or passwords.
Secure your connection
The easiest and the most popular method to hack into someone's computer is through the same internet connection. Especially through public Wi-Fi because they are often less secure and connect way more people than your regular home router.
By default, your computer should have a Firewall installed and activated. It should always be on, regardless of what kind of connection do you have.
The easiest way to avoid being hacked while using public access Wi-Fi is… do not connect. If you have an alternative like Hotspot from your phone, then this is a better alternative. But yet again, we use public Wifi in places like airports, where no other option is available.
In case you decide to connect to public Wifi, consider using a VPN service to keep your connection secure.
Virtual Private Network (VPN), adds a new layer of security by routing your requests through a different IP address making it impossible for hackers to access your machine.
Take passwords seriously
Your password opens doors to every account that you have online. And yes, keeping all the password information is a headache. That's why huge majority of people choose the same password all over again on different websites and apps.
The bad news is that if any password gets exposed or hacked in some way - bad guys will get access to the whole spectrum of accounts.
That's why reusing passwords is dangerous and highly discouraged. You should never use the same password on more than one account.
A strong password is a unique password, which means that you should not use your first/last name or birth date as a password. Instead, try to mix upper and lower case, include characters and numbers.
Again, this might look like a burden but this is essential to keep you secure online. In 2019, password management software like 1Password, Dashlane, and LastPass got very popular. It takes time to move from the traditional method to this kind of software but it really pays off big time since you no longer need to remember passwords.
Read agreements before accepting
Software, games, and apps developers are constantly looking for ways to monetize their products. Back in the day, the usual way was to charge the user in order to download the application.
Then advertising within apps appeared which generated extra revenue for the developers. But now, tech companies are taking a different approach and sometimes chooses to offer a free application in exchange for customer data. A good example is Grammarly writing assistant which collects everything you type while using the extension.
Now you might think that this is understandable and if this data not being leaked outside - you should not worry about your personal data exposure.
BUT. You never know, it is extremely difficult to identify which applications are collecting, selling or leaking your personal data. Google does a great job of constantly removing Apps and extensions from their store if they suspect that the user's data is being collected.
That's why we always recommend checking on what terms are you accepting before installing the app or extension. Again, Google always warns you before you install not so trustworthy product - but still, always keep an eye on those agreements, your decision is final here.
Shop only on secure sites
E-commerce is still happening in 2019 and it does not seem to stop. Before doing any transactions on an online store, make sure that the website is encrypted - this way all your information about credit card and personal data will be secured. You should see a lock symbol next to the URL of the website. This means the website has an SSL certificate.
Another tip before shopping online to look for reviews on that particular site.
Review platforms should be the third party because fraudulent sites can fake user testimonials that are displayed on their site.
Our recommendation is trustpilot.com because users' reviews there can't be edited, deleted or otherwise compromised.