Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone illegally obtains and misuses another person's personal information without their consent. It is a rampant problem, with 43.7 million adults in India, the USA, and Japan combined being victims of identity theft in 2022. India had the highest number of victims, with 27.2 million people affected.
This article will explore how fraudsters carry out identity theft and provide 10 ways to safeguard your personal information and protect yourself from becoming a victim.
How Identity Theft Happens
Here are some common methods used by identity thieves:
Phishing Scams and Email Fraud
Phishing scams involve tricking individuals into revealing their personal information by posing as trustworthy entities, such as banks or government agencies. This is often done through deceptive emails or websites that mimic legitimate ones. Once the scammers obtain personal information like passwords or credit card details, they can use it to commit identity theft.
Social Engineering Tactics
Social engineering involves manipulating individuals into divulging sensitive information. Identity thieves may use various techniques, such as pretending to be a trusted person over the phone or gaining access to personal information through online interactions. These criminals can easily obtain valuable data by exploiting human psychology and trust.
Data breaches occur when hackers gain unauthorized access to databases containing personal information. These breaches often target large organizations or institutions that store vast amounts of data, such as banks, retailers, or healthcare providers. Once the hackers can access this data, they can sell it on the dark web or use it for fraudulent activities.
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft: 10 Easy Steps
Here are 15 easy steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft:
1. Create Strong Passwords
Use unique, complex passwords for each of your online accounts. Include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessable information like birthdays or pet names.
2. Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)
Whenever possible, enable multi-factor authentication for your online accounts. This adds an extra layer of security by requiring additional verification, such as a fingerprint or a code sent to your phone.
3. Keep Your Software Updated
Keep your computer and mobile devices up to date with the latest software updates and security patches. These updates often include important security fixes that can help protect against vulnerabilities.
4. Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks
Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks for sensitive transactions, such as online banking or shopping. Instead, use a secure or virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection.
5. Be Cautious of Phishing Scams
Be wary of unsolicited emails, text messages, or phone calls asking for personal information or urging you to click on suspicious links. Legitimate organizations will never ask for sensitive information via these channels.
6. Monitor Your Financial Accounts
Regularly review your bank statements, credit card bills, and other financial accounts for any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity. Report any discrepancies immediately to your financial institution.
7. Use Secure Websites
Look for the padlock symbol and "https" in the website address when making online purchases or entering personal information. This indicates that the website is using encryption to protect your data.
8. Protect Your BVN and NIN Numbers
Fraudsters who get hold of people’s BVN and NIN numbers use them to steal identities. They then use the stolen identities to carry out loans from banks and fintech apps on behalf of the victim.
9. Be Cautious on Social media
Be mindful of the information you share on social media platforms. Avoid sharing or posting personal details like your full name, address, or birthdate, as identity thieves can use this information.
10. Educate Yourself
Stay informed about the latest identity theft techniques and scams. Educate yourself on recognizing and avoiding potential threats to better guard against identity theft.
Measure and Assess Your Cyber Risks
While these tips can reduce risks, the best way to determine your level of cybersecurity is to take a quick cyber assessment. We've created a 1-minute online test covering core aspects of cybersafety to benchmark your current security.
By taking the cybersecurity test, you will:
Don't wait until it's too late – take the test today and clearly identify any cybersecurity gaps you need to address as soon as possible. Start the test now and take control of your cybersafety.