Identity theft refers to the act of stealing a person’s mannerisms, personal information and even their identity. Identity thieves can steal your identity by misusing your credit cards, private bank details or other sensitive information that you might have posted on social networks.
The different types of identity theft in cybersecurity
Professional hackers use different ways to steal information that may be used for identity theft. And the most common methods are:
- Phishing scams are designed to trick users into sharing their accounts or personal data, including passwords and credit card numbers. The sending email appears very similar to an email from a legitimate business or person in your contact list and it requests your personal details such as passwords, bank account information, social security number, etc. Once you share this with criminals, they can misuse it by hacking your accounts and stealing huge amounts of money from them. It is rather difficult to recognize phishing emails due to the level of sophistication involved in creating them. A common way to protect yourself against such attacks is to verify any email sent by a legitimate organization before you open the attachment or share any information.
- Keyloggers are used to steal victims’ passwords and banking details from their computers, smartphones or other digital devices. These keylogging tools can either be installed on your device directly with your permission or can be embedded in malware that is downloaded by you unknowingly. All keylogger does is copy all of your activity across applications while logging every keystroke into a file which criminals can easily view it to get an idea of what password you use for particular accounts and how often do you change it etc.
- Ransomware attacks have become quite popular methods to extort money from innocent users who don’t even know that they’ve been attacked. Ransomware attacks are similar to phishing scams, but with a malicious twist. Instead of just asking for your personal information and sending it back as the phishing scam does, ransomware begins encrypting all of your files so that you cannot access them. The only way to recover from this attack is to pay criminals money in exchange for a decryption key. Ransomware can infect your computer or other digital devices through an email attachment or through malware that downloads itself onto your device without your permission. You can protect yourself against such attacks by never downloading attachments from emails sent by unknown people and installing strong anti-malware security software on all of your devices.
How cybercriminals steal your personally identifiable information (PII)
In general, it is important to know that identity theft can happen to anyone at any time. There are many things that you do online or in real life that could be used by hackers to steal your identity such as:
- Online banking details may contain your username, password and answers to the security questions you used when you first created an account there. So if any of these details are stolen from a bank database, criminals can easily log in on your personal accounts and transfer money out of them without you knowing about it immediately.
- Credit reports and credit cards have your name, address, social security number, mother’s maiden name or other information that hackers can use to open accounts in your name. They may also sell this information on the dark web or to other criminals who might misuse it.
- GPS records of your car are another way for hackers to know where you live and what kind of vehicles you drive. This is useful for them if they want to follow you without alerting you about it. In the end, if they decide to rob you; they already know that the place where they can find all of your valuable belongings like money, jewelry etc. And sometimes attackers even view video footage from private surveillance cameras as one easy way to steal victims’ identities.
- Your social media activities can be used to disclose some of the most personal details about you. Your contacts there have enough information about where you live, work and travel to help a cybercriminal impersonate as you easily.
How to protect yourself from identity theft in cybersecurity
To protect yourself against identity theft, based on the six basic steps of “3 R’s” which stand for: Recognize, Reduce and Resolve, follow these steps:
- Recognize that there are always ways someone else is trying to steal your data.
- Reduce the amount of information that is publicly available online about you. If any unnecessary information (such as your birth date, address, credit card number…) is provided in places where it can be accessed by others without prior permission from you, then someone could use that information for their own purposes other than what they were intended for.
- Resolve issues right away if you think that there are possibly some problems with one of your accounts such as an unusual charge or attempt to change your personal information. This is the most important step in the process to recover from identity theft successfully if you ever have this experience.
How to recover after falling victim to identity theft
- Contact financial institutions and credit bureaus immediately after you have been a victim of identity theft. This is the most important thing that will make your recovery process much easier. If any suspicious activity has happened in your name, contact the bank or card company right away to cancel and replace these forms of payment before criminals do more damage.
- Keep track of all transactions that were made with your stolen information for the following months until it’s settled down so that you can keep an eye on any possible actions taken by fraudsters during this time period.
- Get copies of police reports if there are any incidents related to identity theft. Keep records for further court cases involving identity thieves unless the police department advises otherwise since law enforcement may need this information during their investigation.
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center if you have any suspicions about identity theft that has been committed over the Internet including cyberstalking, phishing and hacking attacks.
By following these steps you can ensure greater security of your personal data as well as protect yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft in cybersecurity.
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