Technology can be amazing. It continues to surge forward, and it improves many people’s lives. Think of the creations that you enjoy every day, from your large-screen TV to your smartphone.
However, although technology helps us, it can also cause harm. For instance, identity theft is a serious issue.
Identity theft is not as straightforward as street crime. It’s not like walking down a dark alley and a robber accosting you with a gun. A hacker can steal your identity from miles away behind a computer screen if you’re not careful.
If you don’t know very much about identity theft, it’s high time you learned. This article will give you some facts on that subject and some tips for preventing this common occurrence.
Both Children and Adults Can Be Victims
If you believe that adults are the only ones who get their identities stolen, think again. As it turns out, kids have a 35% higher risk of identity theft than adults. Hackers might take a child’s identity so that they can:
- Apply for credit cards in their name.
- Make purchases.
- Commit tax fraud.
A child’s credit file is like a blank slate. An adult might have a low credit score, but a child will not.
Also, when a hacker steals a child’s identity, they can start to do things with it that the child and their family might not notice for years. They may only find out about the theft when the child turns eighteen.
Child Social Security Numbers Are a Goldmine
A hacker can use a child’s social security number for many illicit purposes. Once they have that, they can quickly come up with:
- A false name.
- A fake address.
- A fake age.
Once all that is set up, there are many things that they can do. Signing up for credit cards and purchasing high-end items is only the beginning. They can also sign up for government benefits.
A child’s social security number is like a blank check for a hacker to commit various fraudulent activities.
Hackers Can Use Stolen Information to Blackmail You
One of the reasons why hackers steal information from adults is not necessarily so they can take their identities. They might decide that it’s more valuable to extort money from the targeted individual if they’re rich and powerful.
For example, a hacker might access someone’s social media accounts, even hidden ones about which their spouse or partner does not know. Maybe this individual is having trysts with someone, or more than one person. They might be sexting or committing some type of white-collar crime.
If a hacker learns that you’re embezzling money or committing adultery, then they might approach you and demand payment for staying quiet. They don’t even need to steal your identity now: they know that you’ll pay them to keep that information from getting out.
The real issue is that even if you agree to their demands, they might reveal the information. Hackers often act maliciously, and they like to ruin successful individuals’ lives.
You Can Prevent Identity Theft by Only Using Secure Networks
Most identity theft comes from people being careless. One thing that they like to do is log onto sensitive websites in public places.
If you log into your bank account at Chase or Ally from a coffee shop, using their free, unsecured Wi-Fi, then that’s asking for trouble. Some oblivious people don’t realize that a hacker can very easily steal their information that way.
You can prevent this by only using your home network, where you control the access. You can also set up a VPN, also called a virtual private network.
This is where you extend a private network across a public one. Your online transactions are almost untraceable this way. Your VPN sets up secure, encrypted connections that are safer than a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Use Different Passwords
Another way that many hackers access your information is by figuring out your weak passwords and exploiting them. That is why you should always have different passwords for all your accounts.
Some people use the same password for every one of the bank accounts, social media platforms, etc. This is a mistake. They also make their passwords simple.
They often use their birthdays, children’s birthdays, etc. The better option is to use a random password generator. This will generate a long, strong password with random numbers, letters, and symbols.
These are nearly impossible for hackers to crack.
You Can Also Set Up Multiple Authentications
You can also add an additional authentication step to get into your bank accounts and profiles. This may seem like a bit of a pain, but it will only take a moment for you, and you can breathe a lot more easily, knowing that no one is bypassing your security.
You can easily set up alerts so that if any unauthorized device tries to access your accounts or profiles, you’ll get an alert sent to your phone or email.
You Can Watch Out for Phishing Spam
Another way that you can avoid hackers is never to open any emails from senders that you do not recognize. If there is an attachment, then that’s even worse.
Some hackers make emails that look very convincing. They’ll say that it’s from Netflix or eBay, and they’re suspending your account.
If you do have a Netflix or eBay account and you feel like this could be legit, then you can log in on your own and check it out. Usually, though, your email service should pick these up as phishing spam and put them in the appropriate folder. Rarely do these fraudulent emails get through to your white list.
While you should watch out for identity theft, if you take some simple precautions, you should be able to avoid it. If there is ever a credit card charge that you didn’t make or a deduction from your bank account, notify the bank or credit card company immediately. They can work with you to resolve the situation expediently.