With the way people are willingly publicizing their personal information on social media these days, it is obvious that a lot of people are not worried about identity theft. In fact, many of them consider it a joke. Or at least, nowhere near as serious as getting their money or other tangible properties stolen.
The truth is that ID theft is no laughing matter. It is arguable that getting your private details compromised is worse than simply having your money stolen. You can always earn lost money. Getting your identity stolen, on the other hand, can have long-term ramifications on your finances, security, and even life.
The recent breach at credit credit reporting agency Equifax further emphasizes how serious and widespread the problem is. People from Connecticut, for instance, might want to pay more attention to how they secure their personal info. Financial website Wallethub conducted a study after the Equifax breach, and it is revealed that Connecticut is the 10th most vulnerable state in the US when it comes to fraud and identity theft.
Consequences of Identity Theft
Should any of your personal data (which includes name, address, social security number, credit card info) ever fall in the hands of malicious individuals, they could use it to commit any or all of the following:
- Make Fraudulent Purchases – if a person gets a hold of your credit card information, he may use it to make fraudulent purchases and even get away with it, before you manage to cancel the card.
- Apply for Credit Cards or Loans Under Your Name – if a person gets your name, personal info, and social security number, they can create their own IDs and use it to apply for credit cards or loans. And once the banks come calling, they may end up badgering you instead. This can be very harmful to your credit history.
- Commit Crimes Using Your Identity – with a fake ID containing your name, they can do illegal things such as buy prescription drugs and when the authorities investigate, you will get implicated instead of the perpetrator.
- Steal Your Family and Friends’ Personal Data – access to your accounts can be used for social engineering and phishing schemes, which could lead to your loved ones’ identity being stolen as well.
- Physically Harm You – with your ID and personal info on hand, a malicious individual can stalk you, which could lead to more serious and dangerous activities such as abduction and assault.
Avoiding ID Theft
The easiest and first step to protecting yourself from ID theft involves simply having the good sense to never share sensitive personal information online. Beyond that, there are also industry standard practices that can be followed such as:
- Enabling 2-Factor Authentication on Your Accounts
- Using Strong Passwords (that are regularly changed)
- Not Using the Same Password for Different Accounts
- Avoiding Shady Websites and Software
- Installing Credible and Reliable Anti Malware Software
At the end of the day, the best defense is knowledge. Never sign up to anything without thoroughly searching what you are getting into, and always read up on ideal security practices so that you can stay on top of potential threats and compromises. Stay one step ahead of ID thieves.