Six Tips For Preventing Online Identity Theft

Posted on: 28 July 2016

Identity theft has quickly become one of the fastest growing crimes, with around 27 million Americans affected over the past five years. By getting your personal information online, cyber criminals can quickly ruin your credit and affect your livelihood. Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself and your information. By implementing these six simple preventative measures, you can greatly reduce the risk of someone stealing your identity and your money.

Avoid Website Redirects

This is a common issue, and it's fairly easy to spot if you know what to look for.

Say you log into your bank's website to check your account balance. You type in the web address, the page loads, you enter your login and password, and you're in. Problem is, you were actually redirected to another website that mirrored your bank's. And now all that information you typed in was recorded by special software. The criminals now have access to your account, personal information, and any other information your bank has on you.

One way to prevent this is to double check that the URL of the website you go to actually matches the URL of what you typed in the search engine. If it differs at all, do NOT enter your user name and password. 

Say No to Vishing

Suppose you're a victim of the website redirect in the above scenario. The cyber criminal has your phone number and calls you, posing as one of your bank's representatives and letting you know that their website was recently hacked. You go into a panic, and they reassure you they are doing everything in their power to protect you and prevent this from happening again.

They tell you that in order to recover any lost or stolen money, you'll need to verify your social security number, birth date, your mother's maiden name, or any other piece of the puzzle needed to completely steal your identity. This is a form of phishing via phone, known as vishing, and there is one really easy way you can protect yourself.

Get their name and extension, and let them know you will call the number listed on the bank's website. Do not call the number on the caller ID or any number they give you. If it is legitimate, when you call the number listed on the website and ask for their extension, they should be right there, awaiting your call. Never give out any personal information to anyone who has called you.

Verify Strange Text Messages

Another trending way criminals are stealing others' identity is by sending text messages from what appears to be a bank, urging you to avoid fees by responding immediately. They will include a link for you to click on, and from there, you enter personal information that they are just waiting to grab. Anytime you receive a text message like this, verify its legitimacy by actually calling the institution.

Beware of Shoulder Surfers

If you use a computer at work, or anywhere public for that matter, be very cautious about entering personal information online while anyone is nearby, co-workers and customers included. A lot of criminals have gotten pretty savvy about finding slick ways of stealing your information this way, including making it look like they're texting or calling someone when in reality, they are recording you as you type.   

Invest in Identity Theft Protection

There are a multitude of programs that can help you prevent identity theft; just keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed. Regardless, a monitoring service can benefit you greatly. These programs alert you every time someone checks your credit, a credit card is opened in your name, your credit score changes, or your personal information is being used to change an address, cash a check, or apply for a payday loan. 

Check Your Credit Report Often

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has found that people who discovered signs of identity theft within the first month, and did something about it, spent less than 10 hours fixing the issue. You are allowed one free credit report each year from the major credit reporting agencies, but you can have more under certain circumstances, specifically, if you suspect fraudulent activity.

In your report, look for any accounts you have not opened, addresses that are wrong, and a list of creditors in the inquiries section that don't look familiar to you. If anything is off, immediately place a fraud alert with the credit agency and report the activity to the FTC. They will advise you on what to do next, which should include reporting the identity theft to the local police department.

For information on cyber identity security, contact a company like Silent Security 1.