Each year the number of consumers who have been the victim of stolen identity from a web scam rises. Currently, over a billion consumers have experienced identity theft online that has wreaked havoc on their personal finances and lives.
It can be a true nightmare to fix the issues that occur when your stolen identity has been used to open fraudulent accounts around the world, as you will most likely have to worry about your credit rating with the bureaus, your bank accounts, and repairing your credit reputation with creditors.
With the wireless and high-tech world we live in today, identity theft online is a fast-growing trend for cybercriminals. Once your personal information like your social security number is compromised, you are exposed as an easy target for a web scam. Thieves can then use your personal info to open a credit card account, apply for a loan, pose as you to receive medical services, and other costly and illegal actions.
How to Prevent a Web Scam and Identity Theft Online
A stolen identity is no joke and it is crucial for consumers to educate themselves about how to recognize a web scam to prevent identity theft online. It’s important to know not only how to spot common internet scams, but also when they need to be reported to authorities. These cybercriminals are slick, and they use a variety of different techniques to obtain your information including fraudulent emails and tricky text messages to obtain access to your identity and funds.
Here are some important tips on how to help prevent identity theft online and ensure your finances and personal info is safe.
Top 15 Tips to Prevent Identity Theft Online
- You’ve Got Mail - Cybercriminals may obtain information offline to use online. One way these scammers do this is to steal your mail right from your mailbox. Once they get your personal info, they get online and immediately sell the information or begin to open accounts and steal your identity. Be aware of when your mail is normally delivered and plan to pick it up fairly close to this time, especially if you do not have a locked mailbox
- Shop Online at Reputable Websites - Only shop online at reputable businesses that you know are legitimate. Avoid entering credit card numbers and personal information on a website that is unfamiliar or you risk having your identity stolen.
- Do Not Share Info - Do not divulge any personal information at all while online unless you are 100% sure exactly who you are giving it to. Be alert and aware that these thieves are tricky and are working hard to steal this information from you, so guard it as fiercely as you can.
- Use Anti-Virus and Malware - It is imperative to use a reputable anti-virus and anti-malware on your computer and cell phone to avoid being hacked. Web scams include using backdoors and other programs that allow access to your computer and all of your personal data.
- Don’t Fall for Phishing Websites - One of the biggest web scams is the use of phishing websites to steal your personal info. These websites are made to look like the legitimate business website, but it is really a fake site that is looking to steal your information. They are notorious for sending emails that ask for your username and password, social security number, address, and other personal information.
- Don’t Divulge Personal Info on Social Media - Be aware of what you share on social media and be sure not to divulge too much personal information that can be used by scammers to steal your identity. Info like your bank, date of birth, or mother’s maiden name could give thieves the missing piece of information they need to steal from you.
- Personal Info Storage - Find a safe place to store all of your financial and personal information. This includes your social security card, bank and credit card statements, birth certificate, and other revealing information. Once this information is obtained, you are a sitting target for identity theft online and thieves can find a variety of ways to use this info for an online web scam.
- Surf Securely - Only do personal online banking and access private information when you are at home or connected to Wi-Fi that you trust. Identity theft online is made easy when you use an unsecure connection like public or shared Wi-Fi. Also, be sure to protect your wireless network with a password to ensure a safe connection.
- Create Strong Passwords - Selecting strong passwords for your online accounts is crucial to protect your identity while on the internet. Carefully select passwords without any personal information to avoid being an easy target for cybercriminals.
- Avoid Carrying Identifying Info - It is best to practice only taking the necessary credit cards and identifying information with you. Make it a point to leave most cards and info at home to avoid stolen identity issues. This is especially important when traveling, as thieves target travelers and use their info online to access your accounts.
- Monitor Credit Accounts - Monitoring your credit accounts is the best way to stay on top of things and prevent any stolen identity theft issues. Check account statements each month and look for any suspicious activity or charges that you did not make.
- Check Your Credit Report Yearly - At the very least, you should obtain a copy of your credit report every year. Examine the report to ensure you recognize all of the accounts listed. Report and investigate any suspicious activity and purchase a credit monitoring service if you feel like you are at risk of having stolen identity issues.
- Do Not Store Passwords - Please do not store your personal passwords on your devices such as cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Thieves will have full access to all of your personal information as well as unlimited access to all of your accounts if your devices are stolen or lost.
- Unsubscribe from Pre-Approved Credit Offers - Mail that includes offers for pre-approved credit card accounts is very dangerous. It literally gives thieves everything they need to go online and steal your identity. Contact the company and ask to be removed from their mailing and telephone solicitation lists.
- Be Careful of Downloads - To be safe from stolen identity issues, be sure to only download software and other items online from reputable sources. Games, screensavers, and other downloads from disreputable websites may contain viruses that can harm your device and allow access to your personal data.
You can never be too careful online when it comes to keeping your personal information safe to avoid being the victim of stolen identity. If you suspect you have been a victim of a web scam or identity theft, please contact the Federal Trade Commission as well as your credit union for assistance.
This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. Any recommendations are based on opinion only.