What is Identity Theft and How Can You Protect Yourself From it?

What is identity theft?

Whether you do a lot of online shopping or pay your monthly bills on the computer, a lot of financial transactions take place on the internet nowadays. In order to complete these transactions, you also need to provide personal information such as credit card or bank information, phone numbers, date of birth, billing address and more. While this may be the most convenient way to pay bills, it can also subject you to identity theft risks.

To fully understand the beast that we are dealing with, you should have a briefing on exactly what identity theft consists of. Identity theft refers to any kind of deception, scam, or crime that results in the loss of personal data without your permission, with the intention to commit fraud. This occurs when unauthorized individuals gain access to secure accounts and retrieve personal login information and data to commit cyber crimes such as theft and tax fraud. Identity theft can affect your financial security for years following the attack, and can negatively affect your digital reputation and privacy. To help avoid identity theft, precautions can be taken to increase your safety online.

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How can you protect yourself from identity theft?

To kickstart your commitment to cyber health, follow this list of recommendations to help lock down your devices and keep your classified information secure:

Educate yourself on email scams

Email is a common tool that hackers use to deliver unwanted materials to your devices, often through spam and phishing emails. Spam emails are simply unsolicited junk mail, while phishing emails appear to be coming from organizations you already trust but are actually from a third party. Phishing can be particularly dangerous because the scams are geared toward convincing you to forfeit your most sensitive information such as credit card numbers or Social Security number. As a starting point for outsmarting scam emails, avoid opening attachments within emails from unreliable or unknown sources, and refrain from responding as well.\

Back up all important files

Each and every organization or individual with a computer should develop a backup and recovery plan for all information on their hardware. We recommend to set up an automatic backup assistant to classify all data immediately, or at least weekly, to reduce the risk of losing anything in the case of an outage. You should also store a copy either within the cloud or other external storage devices, such as a hard drive.

Only use secure tools

Be sure to keep in mind that all devices with internet access should be treated with the same safety precautions as a desktop computer. Both hardware and software on your devices need to have safety precautions built in internally to protect sensitive data. If you ever share financial information or handle financial activity on work-provided devices, double check to make sure your company has implemented secure unified communication products to avoid opening yourself up to vulnerabilities. These tools utilize the cloud to keep information in one secure place that shares the same privacy measures across the board, which maximizes security coverage.

Install anti-spyware and antivirus software

If you handle any sensitive information on your devices, be sure to load them up with anti-spyware and antivirus software. This will make it more difficult for criminals to crack into and steal your personal information. Running antivirus gives you the ability to stay one step ahead of cyberthieves at all times by monitoring security holes in your devices and reporting on unusual activity.

Strengthen your passwords

Make sure you are password-protecting all of your devices and applications with strong passwords. “Strong passwords” consist of at least eight characters, a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, and are unique for each application or site you use.

Making these updates to your everyday internet usage will help keep your sensitive information and identity secure. From knowing what scams to look for, to upgrading your password strength, these tips are financially feasible for every individual to implement immediately. Help combat the risks of cyber thieves to ensure your identity is protected as you navigate the cyber landscape.

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