Today, millions of financial transactions are performed online. The more we store personal and financial information on computers, the more common online identity theft becomes. Regular methods generally target victims’ personal information: bank account details, Social Security numbers, ATM PINs, usernames and passwords. It’s awareness of these techniques that will help you better detect and avoid predatory scams.
Although phishing scams were one of the first schemes to hit the Internet, they still remain an effective identity theft tactic. Phishing involves sending an email or pop-up message that appears to be from a legitimate source. By impersonating popular banks retailers or government agencies unsuspecting users click on the accompanying link, which redirects them to a page requesting personal information. However, the official companies would never request verification of your personal information through an email.
Spyware and spam are similar to phishing scams, in that they usually disguise themselves in the form of a pop-up or email. When a person clicks on the links, a spyware program is downloaded into the user’s system. Personal information is gathered, such as login details or bank account passwords, by recording keystrokes or using Trojans. To combat this method of identity theft, update your computer’s anti-virus software and security settings, and purchase a spyware removal tool. Also consider taking your computer to a professional to ensure all the files are clean.
While many criminals use sophisticated programs to commit identity theft, some obtain your personal information from details you may share on social networking sites, like Facebook. Avoid publishing identifying details, such as your address, place of employment, hometown, birth date or your mother’s maiden name online. Criminals use this information to open accounts in your name or as a foundation for finding more data about you. Make full use of your privacy settings and avoid accepting friend requests from people you don’t know.
Identity theft victims or individuals who want to mitigate their risk should consider enrolling in credit monitoring, which delivers daily notifications upon any changes to their credit reports. Often these updates can give an indication of identity theft in the form of suspicious account activity.