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How Online Consumers Can Prevent Fraud and Identity Theft

How Online Consumers Can Prevent Fraud and Identity Theft

Identity theft is a wide phrase that refers to the theft of a piece of personal information to create a new identity.

Among the most common types of identity theft are:

  • Theft of a social security number
  • Tax identity theft
  • Theft of an online account
  • Business identity theft

These are just a few examples of the various ways thieves may benefit from your personal information. Because cybercriminals utilize various methods of obtaining private data, protecting yourself from identity theft requires a smart approach. In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips on preventing fraud and identity theft in 2021.

How can you protect yourself with available methods?

To start, protecting your identity in this modern era requires flexibility. You must adapt to newer digital security practices. However, that is easier said than done. According to an Experian survey, only 20% of the 1400 customers had any familiarity with professional identity theft software.

Products like McAfee identity theft protection offer all-in-one solutions for managing the digital footprint you leave online. But it requires people to leave the comfort zone of relying on older software, like simple virus scanners.

Here are some additional ways you can stay ahead of cybercriminals.

In public, use a VPN.

VPNs aren't simply for streaming Netflix from the United States while on vacation in Europe. A VPN encrypts data as it leaves your device. Thereby adding an extra degree of protection to online transactions. This is particularly important if you're performing them in public.

Doing any kind of shopping on public WiFi is usually a terrible idea. This is because data can be intercepted as it goes across the local network. However, a VPN will encrypt that local data.

Make use of data breach notification services.

There are a variety of methods available to check if any of your personal information has been included in publicly available stolen data listings.

HaveIBeenPwned.com, for example, allows you to instantly see whether any of your email credentials or passwords have been stolen. Other more advanced programs may also be able to scan the dark web for web pages containing your data.

Identity theft during the pandemic

By the middle of 2020, about 150,000 COVID-19-related financial fraud reports had been lodged. Technology has become the major way of obtaining pandemic-related advantages and even enrolling on vaccination lists.

Some nations are even employing smartphone-based apps. These provide each person with a unique QR code that they can scan when entering public facilities. All of this data is ideal for a cybercriminal to take advantage of.

Because we've grown to rely on technology for so many things, identity theft has become a major problem for customers all around the world. Cybercriminals are always coming up with new methods to take advantage of technology. Whether it's through large email phishing operations or intrusions into multinational company networks.

Last year, identity fraud cost the United States $56 billion, with 49 million people falling victim.

Consumer financial behavior has been dramatically affected by the worldwide epidemic. In 2020, consumers spent more time at home. They depended significantly on streaming services, digital commerce, and payments than in prior years. They also spoke more often via email and text, both for professional and personal reasons.

Common methods used by cybercriminals to steal personal info

Data breaches and password dumps

The type of data taken in a data breach varies per organization. But it generally includes complete names and email addresses. Often, as well as social security numbers and financial information.

These data breaches can occur in a variety of ways online. Criminals can insert form-jacking scripts into legal shopping websites, for example, to intercept your information. It does this as it passes between the website's servers and its payment processor.

In other situations, businesses are the victims of supply chain assaults. This is where hackers gain access to a third-party system that links to the main system they intend to attack.

Dark web marketplaces

A lot of information dumps wind up on the dark web. There may be full pages of stolen data with your name and bank details. Typically, thieves release this material because a firm refuses to pay a ransom. Or, even because they want to demonstrate their capabilities (perhaps to gain membership in hacker organizations).

Even if the information released is "worthless" to the person who dumped it, once it becomes public, other criminals may exploit it. And, no doubt the initial hackers scoured the data for what they could use as well.

Criminals may also opt to sell stolen information on underground websites. On dark web marketplaces, stolen credit cards usually sell for $30 to $50 USD. It's more simple to sell the data and launder the money using cryptocurrencies than it is to risk using the stolen credit cards for transactions. Transactions make it easier to track back to the original hacker.

Conclusion

The internet is a wild west frontier. Many people are concerned about data and privacy being harvested by big corporations. That’s a valid concern, but equally valid is that cybercriminals utilize that same anonymity of the internet to conduct their illegal activities.

We can’t have a completely safe internet without a Big Brother government watching it, and nobody wants that. So staying safe on the internet means taking your security into your own hands. And hopefully, our tips enable you to do that.

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