Identity theft is one of the most insidious forms of cyber attacks, with the potential for causing irreversible damage to your personal and professional life, and your reputation. Victims of identity theft often find themselves arrested for crimes they didn’t commit or indebted to various people or organizations after their stolen identity was used to obtain money from said people or organizations.
In one of the more famous cases of identity theft ever recorded, a man named Malcolm Byrd was arrested for cocaine possession with intent to distribute in 2003. It was later found that the actual criminal had used his name and identity. He spent some time in jail before his name was cleared. This is the darker side of identity theft and why it is so important that you learn how to protect your identity online.
Ways Your Identity Can Be Threatened Due to Theft
Before we dive into ways of protecting your identity from theft on the internet, let’s look at some of the potential damage that could be caused by a case of identity theft.
- Your Social Security number can be used to open new accounts in your name. This can ruin your credit and cause a lot of financial problems.
- Your driver’s license number can be used to get a new driver’s license in your name. This can be used to commit crimes or traffic violations in your name.
- Your credit card number can be used to make unauthorized purchases. This can also ruin your credit and cause you to incur thousands of dollars in debt.
- Your bank account number can be used to withdraw money from your account. This can leave you without access to your own money and cause financial problems.
- Your e-mail address can be used to reset your passwords and gain access to your accounts. This can give a thief access to all of your personal information, including financial information.
- Most important of all, your identity can be used to commit crimes for which you would be arrested as the actual perpetrator.
How to Protect Your Identity From Theft
Now that you have a good understanding of what identity theft is and the damage it can cause, here are some ways to protect your identity online.
1. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe and Personal
There are a few simple steps you can take to protect your Social Security number (SSN). First, don’t carry your social security card with you unless absolutely necessary. Second, don’t give out your SSN unless you’re sure the recipient is legitimate and you trust them to keep it safe.
2. Invest in Identity Theft Protection
Even if you are the meticulous kind, you should consider investing in identity theft protection services. For example, LifeLock offers top-tier protection by detecting malicious use of your personal information. It also monitors your credit reports and activity, banking and investment accounts, your personal information on the internet and Social Security Number fraud. If you’re still wondering why buy LifeLock identity theft protection when you can just be extra careful when you’re online, consider this: if identity theft does occur, they’ll help fix the problem by dedicating a U.S.-based Identity Restoration Specialist to your case.
3. Safeguard Your Driver’s License
If your driver’s license is stolen or lost, it can be used by someone else to commit identity theft. There are a few things you can do to protect your driver’s license from identity theft. First, never carry it in your wallet or purse. Keep it in a secure place, such as a locked glove compartment or trunk. Second, never give your driver’s license number to anyone over the phone or online unless you are sure you are dealing with a reputable company.
4. Protect Your E-Mail Address
One of the best ways to safeguard your e-mail address is to use a unique password for each account. By using a different password for each account, you make it more difficult for identity thieves to gain access to your personal information. You should also consider using two-factor authentication for your e-mail accounts and other personal accounts online. This provides an extra layer of security.
5. Report All Cases of ID Loss
If you ever lose any of your means of identification or suspect that someone else has gained access to your personal information, report to the proper authorities immediately. This will help provide a record that might be the only thing to save you if the missing ID is used in committing crimes or worse.
Keep Your Identity Secure on the Internet
Remember, it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to being vigilant about cybersecurity. Identity theft is a serious crime with potentially life-damaging consequences for the victims. These tips will help you avoid ever becoming one of the victims.