Did you know that a staggering 23.7% of American households have experienced some form of identity theft? Or that the average financial loss per identity theft is just over $5,000?
Identity theft continues to wreak havoc to many individuals and businesses alike, and the numbers are growing by the day. In fact, online identity theft has slowly become the fastest growing crime rate in the US.
The good news: Consumers and businesses are taking up the fight against online identity theft and are winning some of the battles. While you can’t fully prevent identity theft, there are measures you can take to greatly reduce your risk of being victimized. In this post, we’ll shed some light on identity theft and explain how to keep your money safe online.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime in which an imposter obtains someone else’s private information, such as bank info, social security number, or driving license number, then uses that information to commit fraud or gain financial benefits.
Once identity thieves steal your personal information, they can drain your bank accounts, open a new credit card or loan, file a tax refund on your name, and even get medical treatment on your health insurance. They can even commit a crime in your name, triggering a series of lawsuits and damages to your reputation.
How to Prevent Identity Theft Online
In case you haven’t started protecting your identity online, you should start doing so today. Here are some tips that will help to safeguard your identity online.
1. Enroll in Credit Monitoring
When it comes to credit monitoring, you’ve two options: Doing it yourself or hiring the services of a credit monitoring company. And we recommend the latter. If you opt for the do-it-yourself approach, you’ll only have access to one credit report per year from the three bureaus.
However, credit monitoring companies will do more than just the 3-bureau credit monitoring; they will go an extra mile to protect your identity by offering deep web monitoring and address monitoring services, all while providing you with safe browsing and anti-phishing tools.
2. Use Reputable Websites When Shopping Online
Today, there are over 10 million e-commerce stores out there. Amazon and Play Store are both secure websites, but what about the smaller, lesser-known sites?
If you don’t know the reputation of a retailer you want to purchase from, do your homework well. What do other customers say about it? Does the company use a secure, encrypted connection for personal and financial information?
To ensure your connection is secure and your personal information is protected, only shop on sites that use the HTTPS protocol. You can recognize this from the “s” in the HTTPS and a locked padlock next to the address bar.
3. Use Antivirus & Anti-Malware Software
Hackers can steal your personal information online by injecting a virus or malware into your computer. By sending a file to your computer, they can track your web usage and find out your passwords in the process.
The first step in protecting yourself from identity theft is to never click a link or download content from unknown sources. Secondly, install antivirus and antimalware software. A good antivirus program will disable most types of malware and prevent hackers from infecting your computer with spyware.
What other protective measures do you take to protect your online privacy? Share with us in the comments section below.
Image credit: CafeCredit | Flickr