The blog mentions about what are identity thefts, their features and how you can secure your digital identity.
Technology has made the world a smaller place to live in. Today, a click on your phone can help you connect with someone across the globe at the speed of light. With social media acting as a catalyst, people are more focused on creating better digital identities of themselves than their physical identities. However, your digital identity isn’t as safe as you think it is. All around the world, the number of identity thefts or identity frauds are on the rise.
What Exactly is a Digital Identity Theft?
Norton, one of the market leaders of antivirus, defines an identity theft or identity fraud as an instance when some uses your personal identifying information and pretends to be you in order to commit a fraud or to gain other financial benefits.
The digital identity thieves exploit the limitation of technology that you can never be sure who is on the other side of your digital screens. That’s why such frauds are on the rise. Javelin Strategy and Research Consulting firm reported as many as 13 million consumers falling victim to identity thefts in the year 2019. And these are just the cases that were reported!
With technology evolving at a rapid rate, hackers have more opportunities than ever to steal your digital identities. Being vigilant of your digital identities can help you protect yourself from being a victim.
What Constitutes my Digital Identity?
Any information that can help a system or another human to verify who you say you are constitutes your digital identity. Hence, you should protect your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from falling into the wrong hands.
PII can include your first name, last name, address, email ID, login ID and passwords, driver’s license number, Aadhar number, passport number, bank number, PAN number, and the list goes on and on and on.
Different Forms of Digital Identity Thefts:
Digital identity thieves can either use your PII for gaining monetary benefits by exploiting your data or selling your data on the dark wen or to impersonate you. There are many different techniques and forms of identity theft. The five most common ones are as follows:
Digital Identity Theft Technique #1: Phishing
A type of cyber attack where a hacker disguises as a legitimate person to trick you into sharing your confidential information with them or to infect your system with malicious software – or malware, for short. This malicious software might send your PII to a remote computer. Hence, do not open suspicious-looking emails or click on suspicious links or download suspicious software.
Digital Identity Theft Technique #2: Data Breaches
Sometimes the websites you often use can undergo a data breach. There is not much you can do to prevent a company’s data breach, but you have to be wary of your PII. Limit storing confidential information like credit card details to as few websites as possible. Browse securely and only share your data with websites you trust.
Digital Identity Theft Technique #3: Skimming
A type of cyberattack that requires a hardware device that looks like card readers. Once you swipe your card in a skimmer, it captures your PII contained in the magnetic strip of your card to pass to the skimmer. With such sensitive bank account information, the skimmer can make fraudulent purchases in the account holder’s name.
Digital Identity Theft Technique #4: Mail Theft/Dumpster Diving
This type of cybercrime dates back to times long before the internet. Avoid discarding documents that might contain your PII, like bank account statements, health insurance cards, etc. without properly shredding them since an identity thief can patch your mail to steal your digital identity.
Digital Identity Theft Technique #5: WiFi Hacking
This is a sophisticated cybercrime wherein the hackers eavesdrop on your WiFi. If the WiFi connections are unencrypted, the hackers can snoop the data traveling to and from your device. Hence, it is always recommended to not use public WiFi. If you have to use it, do so using a VPN.
How do Protect Yourself from Digital Identity Theft?
There are various small steps that you can take in your day to day life to protect your digital identities from being stolen. The 5 most common steps you can start taking from today are:
Protecting Your Digital Identity Tip #1: Use an Identity Protection Service (IDPS)
Understand how your PII is being used with the help of an IDPS, which monitors your PII and reports its tracking information with you. Intelligent IDPS can send alerts via multiple channels (email, SMS, mobile app, etc.) on identity thefts, even when your PII is found on the dark web.
Protecting Your Digital Identity Tip #2: Up Your Password Game
Most websites use only a user ID and password combination as a single factor of authentication, hence create unique, complex passwords for your different devices and different accounts. You can improve the strength of your password by using at least one of each: uppercase alphabet, lowercase alphabet, number or special character.
Protecting Your Digital Identity Tip #3: Use Multiple-Factor Authentication
Each additional authentication factor helps add an additional layer of security to your PII. Various forms of multiple factor authentications use biometric factors like Touch ID, Retina Scan, Facial Recognition, etc.
Protecting Your Digital Identity Tip #4: Surf Secure
Your safety in the digital world lies in your hand. Only surf trusted and secure websites and never give out your PII without verifying the identity of the person you think you’re sharing the information with. Moreover, avoid opening suspicious links or suspicious emails, or downloading suspicious software.
Protecting Your Digital Identity Tip #5: Repeatedly Check Your Financial Accounts
In order to minimise your damage in case of an identity theft, it is important to catch the theft as early as possible. Set up banking alerts on your phone and keep checking your financial spends periodically and report if anything seems suspicious.
How to Report a Digital Identity Theft?
If you feel you have fallen a victim to identity theft, you should report it to the concerned authorities at the earliest. But how? Digital identity theft is often spread across geographic boundaries. Who then, is the concerned authority you should reach out to?
Identity theft can be reported to the respective privacy and data protection legislation of your area, who will then direct it to the relevant authorities. But all this takes time. Does that mean that until you reach out to the concerned authority, you will be exposed to the risks of having your digital identity stolen?
Of course not.
Identify the source of your identity theft. If your social media account has been compromised, you can report, deactivate or delete your account. If your card has been stolen, reach out to your bank and get your card blocked. You can also set up fraud alerts that notify lenders to take extra measures to verify your identity.
Frequently Asked Questions
PII or Personally Identifiable Information is the information, like name, address, identification number, etc. that can be used to uniquely identify a person. Since a single PII or a combination of it is enough for the hackers to impersonate you, you should be wary of sharing this information with only the sites you trust.
A strong password combination is a passphrase. Alternatively, you can use password generators and password vaults to securely generate and store your passwords for you.
To encapsulate, surf the internet safely and take precautionary steps to preserve your digital identity. In the case of digital identity theft, report it to the relevant authorities as soon as possible to minimize your losses.
By Saarthak Jain