While technology has made our lives easier, it has also made it complicated for a lot of us, especially in terms of security. Gone are those days when our concept of a crime was pick-pocketing. Today, crime has taken a digital turn. Technology-based crimes are engulfing many of us, and there isn’t any foolproof solution to address the issues.
Digital identity theft, in particular, has taken an evil shape where IT fraudsters targeting both businesses and individuals for cyber-attacks. Fraudsters can target an individual for any personal gain like accessing one’s financials and other records. They can also target businesses for stealing confidential information and other business data. Thus, it has become vital for us to address digital identity theft.
But for many, it is still a nascent subject as many don’t know what digital identity theft is, how it works, and how it can affect them. To elucidate the importance of addressing the issues related to digital identity theft, we have created this post where we will discuss everything you need to know about it so that you can protect yourself and your business in our increasingly exposed and connected environment.
What is Digital Identity Theft?
The sudden rise of the internet and e-commerce has taken online identity theft to new levels. Identity theft is all about accessing your personal details online. Now, a fraudster can access your personal information for any purpose. Using the widely available tools on the internet, hackers can trick unsuspecting internet users into providing personal information, which they later use for illicit purposes. The potential for identity theft is a major hurdle in the growth and evolution of the digital world. Digital identity theft can happen in a number of ways but in the majority of cases, the fraudster steals an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) using scams or activities like planting malicious viruses and software on their system. Personally identifiable information could be anything from bank account number to driving license, social security number, or any other information that can distinguish digital identity.
What is risky about digital identity theft is that fraudsters can make a digital clone of the owner for personal gain. The following are some of the ways how fraudsters can manipulate personal information:
- Rent an apartment or pass an employment background check, using your financial and personal information
- Get medical care using your health insurance
- File income tax return using your social security number and claim your refund
- Make unauthorized purchases using your debit or credit card
- Open a bank account or avail new credit cards or loan using your details
Thus, it is important that you are fully aware of the situation and immediately report any instance where you may feel like your digital identity has been stolen.
Problems Posed by Digital Identity Theft
Fraudsters can profit from your information in a variety of ways. For starters, they can steal your money and other benefits. How fraudsters use your information depends on what information they have. In case the cyber crook has credit card number, address, and name, they can misuse. Moreover, if they get their hands on sensitive information like your social security information, they can file a tax return and steal all your refund, apply for government benefits, receive medical treatment using your health insurance, steal your airline miles, or company data and sell it to the highest bidder.
Identity thieves are most active on the dark web where they expose the stolen information for a price. A dark web is that part of the internet, which isn’t regulated, centralized, or indexed by the search engine. For example, a US passport can sell for up to $2000 on the dark web. The fraudster can sell your credit card number for up to $110, and your social security number for $1 or more.
Last but not the least, digital identity theft can lead to the creation of multiple social media accounts of an individual. The thief, in disguise of the owner, talks to different people and retrieve information. They can also use your fake account to pass a job background check and even rent an apartment. Individuals with no criminal background and a good credit card history are often the targets of the fraudsters.
- Who are the victims?
Cybersecurity experts suggest that the likelihood of experiencing identity theft appears to be higher in women, younger consumers, and people with higher income. Moreover, an individual’s risk of being a victim of digital identity theft depends on how many noncash accounts he/ she has and how often (intensity) they are used. Moreover, it may also depend on where an individual conducts most of his/ her business and the precautionary measures he/ she follows. Since data that directly measure these factors is not available, it can be hard to tell the risks faced by the demographic groups.
- Tools of the trade
If you think that your personal data is safe online, you are wrong. You knowingly share your personal details, including your location via social media and other digital platforms. When you do this, you are putting your information into the wrong hands. Just like us, fraudsters are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and tools that they use to steal one’s personal information. It is vital that you understand what these tools of the trade are so that you can protect yourself.
- Phishing – It is a fraudulent activity where cybercriminals send fake emails posing to be from a legitimate company. The email contains links that lures to click on it and collect personal information. Those are malicious links and are easy access to the personal details.
- Malware – A malware attacks your system to steal your personal information. Cybercriminals can use malware for your system through various means. It includes key loggers, Trojans, spyware, and viruses.
- Poor Passwords – This is one of the common vulnerabilities that people make while creating passwords for banking accounts, social media accounts and other online platforms. Poor passwords are the gateways for cybercriminals to access private information.
- Pharming – Pharming is a cyber-attack where your internet browser is compromised by a virus. In other words, your browser gets hijacked by the hacker, and they can access any saved passwords and account information.
Addressing Digital Identity Theft
This is a growing concern worldwide. Some popular cybersecurity practices can keep yourself and your family’s digital identities safe from hackers.
- How to prevent Digital Identity Theft?
- Use antivirus software and firewall
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi
- Always update your OS and other critical applications
- Always download from trustworthy sources
- Avoid emails from unknown senders
- Avoid visiting suspicious websites
- Refrain from sharing of personal information digitally
Keeping yourself protected from the cyber goons is not an easy job. However, some best possible IT security practices can minimize the risks to some extent. From business perspective too, securing critical digital assets is the key to business continuity and prosperity.