Your identity is as dearest to you as your life. It is what empowers you to make connections, engage in social engagements, request credit loans, apply for lucrative job opportunities, create online bank accounts, and more.
Now, imagine having your identity stolen from you. When that happens, it is not just your bank accounts or money at risk, but also your social, professional and your personal life.
Identity theft is a type of fraud or online scam that may cost you your bank account details, your social account details, etc. These personal details of yours are then used to carry out different types of cybercrimes, including criminal activities carried out in your name, money theft, etc.
The Status of Identity Theft in Australia
Like many other countries, Australia too is prone to identity theft. In fact, offline and online identity theft are a common menace in Australia. There are a growing number of these cases that have resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.
According to an Abc.net report of 2016, over a million Australian users’ are robbed off their online identity every year which ultimately costs around $1 billion.
The same report quoted the case of Paul McDonald who lost his thousands of dollars of retirement savings due to identity theft. The hacker stole the email account details of the victim to rob him off his savings.
Signs of an Identity-Theft Victim
Identity theft is a crime where the victim rarely realizes the threat, until the damage is done. However, there are certain warning signs that you should alert you to be careful with your identity.
- Social Media Invasion: One of the most common signs of an identity theft is a hacked social media account. If you see any strange posts on your social networks that you are sure you never posted yourself, you may be a victim of identity theft.
- Poor Credit Score: It is important for credit card holders to check their credit scores and statements regularly. These scores are the determining factors when it comes to situations when you need to apply for loans. An unexpectedly bad credit score translates into a stolen identity case.
- Unfamiliar Charges: If you have surplus charges on your debit or credit card, there’s a high chance your identity is stolen and someone is using it to purchase items without your knowledge.
- Unexpected Shipments: If you find a package delivered to your doorsteps and you are absolutely sure that no one in the house has ordered anything, it is most likely the doing of an identity-thief.
How to Prevent Identity Theft
- Keep Strict Tabs on Your Bank Statement: Many people don’t care to check their monthly bank account statement, until they get a call from their bank regarding irregular transactions. Always check your bank statements to keep an eye out on any unusual activity as it may later help you prevent a major catastrophe.
- Beware of Phishing Attempts: Phishing is a type of social engineering where the fraudster appear as a legitimate individual or organization to con the victim. These attempts are made not just through emails but also through social networks, websites, etc. Make sure you never click or access any email or URL/link that looks suspicious. Also never share your password to anyone because only a hacker or fraudster would be interested in asking your personal details such as passwords.
- Check Privacy Status on Social Media: It is wise to remove any kind of personal information from your social media pages. These portals are created for social engagements, not for opening your personal life to strangers. Also, make sure that the privacy settings are set to optimal so that only people in your circle can view what you share online.
- Set Smartphone Privacy: Though irrelevant to identity theft, illegal GPS tracking is also carried out by hackers to track victims. So, turn off the GPS location on your mobile phones when it is not needed.
- Secure Your Network: Most often than not, hacking attempts are aimed at users’ network. To prevent such attempts it is recommended to use firewalls, antivirus or encryption tools to secure your device as well as your network connection.
Keeping in mind the above-listed tips can help you avoid the unfortunate situation of identity theft.
Author Bio: Sufian Farrukh is a Cyber-Security Analyst and Research Supervisor in various universities. He has a passion to read and write in areas such as Cyber-Security, Internet of Things, FinTech, Cloud Computing, Logistics and Artificial Intelligence. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sufian Farrukh is a guest blogger, all opinions are his own.