Identity fraud is becoming big business amongst gangs, criminals and cyber hackers. In mere moments someone can steal your personal information and apply for credit cards in your name, rack up an obscene amount of debt in your name and even fly to sunnier climes using your name and a faked passport. Like something out of the movies, these individuals can take on your identity and become you. The scariest aspect of this crime is that you will probably never know how the criminal came to steal your identity and you will never be able to put a face to the criminal who committed the fraud. However, there are ways you can protect yourself and your identity.
It goes without saying that the passwords to all of your online accounts need to be strong and unhackable. In the twenty-first century, we have accounts for everything from our online banking to our social media and from our email to our Amazon account. These passwords should all be unique. The sheer scale of the chaos that could be unleashed if a cyber hacker discovered the one password to all of your online accounts would be unthinkable. Keep them at least twelve characters long, unique for each account, with a range of letters, special characters and numbers, and ensure that you change them every couple of months. This is the first line of defence when keeping your online data secure.
If you want to check if your email has been compromised, you can head onto a specific search engine that will investigate if your email address has been present at all on the dark web. You simply input your email and let it run a search. If it has been compromised, you can then change the password to the account or close it down and set up a new one altogether.
Chip and PIN has made it even faster, easier and more efficient when paying for items in physical stores. However, with this ease also comes a greater threat of identity threat. When in a store, make sure you cover the pad you are inserting your pin into so that nobody can see it. If you lose your card at all, phone your bank immediately to get it canceled. And if you find yourself at a cashpoint and the hole in the wall looks dodgy for any reason, don’t use it. PIN readers may have been installed, or cameras may have been placed strategically to read the numbers you input onto the pad.
If you have your passport, birth certificate and financial documentation at home, you need to make sure you keep them safe. Don’t leave these items in drawers or under your bed. These are the first places any thief will look. Instead, try to put these documents into a lockable container or file which you can then store away in your attic space or under a floorboard. The harder it is for any potential thief to locate and get into, the more likely it is that they will give up and move on.
Becoming a victim of identity theft can leave you feeling vulnerable, foolish and violated. However, by ensuring that you heed this advice, you will be doing everything in your power to prevent your identity from ever falling into the hands of someone else.