How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft Online?

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Protection Against Online Identity Theft

By Manish Bhickta, Product Marketer, Stellar Data Recovery

Wish to acquaint yourself with Online Identity Theft, its types, its preventive measures to remain protected, and the ways using which you can get rid of it if victimized? All of these is revealed in this Post!

Online identity theft is on a high rise as most people resort to online means for almost every task, especially, when it comes to financial transactions such as bill payment, shopping, to name a few.

The cybercriminals fraudulently acquire consumers’ personally identifiable information such as name, bank account details, identifying number, credit card number, and other details, usually for their financial benefits.

They may also use other private identifying information against you for the same. Thus, it becomes quite essential for you to protect yourself from being victimized.

Online Identity Theft: Statistics
As per a study on Identity Fraud Study 2017 conducted by ‘Javelin Strategy & Research’, about $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016 while $15.3 billion was stolen from 13.1 million victims in 2015.

Bar Graph: Statistics showing Identity Theft & Fraud Complaints from 2012 to 2015

Note – The Percentages Figures have been computed on the basis of a total number of Consumer Sentinel Network complaints by the calendar year. It does not include ‘Do Not Call’ registry complaints.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Sentinel Network.
Now know the types of identity theft committed online!

Online Identity Theft: Types
The following are some of the common types of online identity theft:

  • Phishing Emails – Here, the fraudster tricks you into handing over your personal information through fake emails.
  • Hacking into Your Device – Here, the scammers gain unauthorized access to your personally identifiable information by exploiting security loopholes on your computer, laptops, mobile device such as tablets, smartphones, or network, and then attacks your device.
  • Remote Access Scams – Here, the cyber criminals trick you into providing remote access to your computer online and paying for a service that you do not need.
  • Installation of Malicious Codes – Here, malicious codes such as malware, virus, ransomware, etc. are installed on your computer that allows unauthorized access to your files having privately identifiable information.
    Also, the cybercriminals keep a watch on every activity you perform, and in this way, make a fraudulent acquisition of your personal information.
  • Fake Online Profiles – In this, the fraudster creates fake profiles on social media, dating, or matrimonial sites and requests you to connect.
  • On doing so, they gain access to your personal identity and then misuse it for their selfish benefits.
  • Document Theft – Here, the scammer gets access to your private information through open mailboxes or discarded personal documents such as insurance renewals, utility bills, health cards, etc.
  • Return of Leased IT Assets – When you or your organization return the leased IT assets such as hard drives without making sure that data on the devices have been erased, you may lose all your personal information and the information might get into wrong hands.
  • Selling or Donating IT Assets – When you sell or donate your IT assets such as your computer, laptop, desktop, Table PCs, or smartphones without permanently removing the data, well, the chances are that you may become a victim of Identity Theft as the recipient may recover data from the devices.

The Importance of Data if We Sell Our Hard Drive – If we sell our hard drive wherein all personal data was saved, to an unknown person whom we chanced upon online through an e-commerce site, we may easily become a victim of Identity Theft.

Although we ensure that the drive is formatted before selling, this, however, does not erase the data completely.

Now, the unknown person may take advantage of this and make you the victim of online Identity theft. This is possible by recovering the data and then misusing it for financial or personal gains.

Thus, before selling the hard drive, you should ensure that the drive has been completely erased. The same applies in cases when disposing of hard drives.

Types of Identity Theft: Statistics


Table: Statistics showing the way information of victims is misused

Note – The Percentage Figures are computed on the basis of a total number of complaints in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network (in the year 2015 it was 490,220).

The Percentage totals or sums up to more than 100. This is because some victims experienced identity theft of more than one type.

Now that you are aware of the varied types of online Identity Theft, let’s now look at the ways by which you can protect your data!

Tips to Protect Yourself from Online Identity Theft

The tips to protect yourself from online identity theft are as follows:

Prevent Phishing – Do not respond to unknown emails that request your personal information such as your name, birth date, or financial details such as bank account number, credit card number and its password, etc.

Prevent System Hack – Always be vigilant and keep a regular check on your system to ensure that nobody has hacked your system.

One way to do is installing a good antivirus, firewall, or other protection software to fight against online threats. You can also create a strong login password for your system.

Prevent Scam Remote Access – Do not provide remote access to those whom you do not know as they could gain access to your device and victimize you by looking into your personal data.

Use of Powerful Internet Security Software – You should always keep your device well protected by installing a powerful and advanced Internet Security software so that the cybercriminals do not hack your device through malicious codes.

Be Aware of What You Share Online – Avoid sharing personal information such as your name, mobile number, bank account details, etc. online on social media unless when necessary on authentic websites.

Handle Email Accounts Safely – You should manage your email accounts safely and securely by properly logging off when not in use. You should not leave them open, especially when using at a public place or your personal information may get compromised.

Also, you should maintain strong passwords to prevent others from hacking into your device.

Erase Data from Hard Drives – When selling, donating, or returning the leased IT assets such as laptops, computers, PCs, etc. you should ensure to erase data from the hard drives.

Now, as this is not possible with permanent deletion or formatting, you ought to use professional third-party software that erases data permanently without leaving any scope for recovery.

Now that you are aware of the various ways by which you can keep your valuable data safe, secure, and protected from Online Identity Theft, you can go for those as per your need.

If online identity theft is caused by selling, donating, disposing of, or returning leased IT assets that lead to data leakage, the best way forward is to use professional data erasure software.

The Way Forward: Online Identity Theft Protection

To protect yourself from Online Identity Theft challenge (caused due to data leakage from sold, donated, disposed-off, or returned leased IT assets) use a professional third-party data erasure software. A plethora of such software is available in the market.

Therefore, ensure that the software you choose is a sure-shot solution to the challenge faced, is capable of erasing data completely beyond recovery, is managed and certified guaranteeing permanent and 100% removal of data.

Plus, if it abides by internationally recognized sanitization standards while offering reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency the risk of data recovery would be alleviated completely. in short, it keeps your personal data protected, safe, and secure!

Well, BitRaser, DBAN (Darik’s Boot and Nuke), Disk Wipe, Secure Erase for SSDs, Blancco 5, and more are the eminent data erasure software available in the market.

You can try their demo version to understand their full functionalities.

About The Author
Manish Bhickta is a product marketer who worked for Stellar Data Recovery. He was in the cybersecurity arena since last 3 years and raises a war against data breach and other online malicious activities.