There are numerous ways hackers and scammers can capture details that will allow them to assume your identity online. In some cases, the perpetrator steals another person's identity simply to cause harassment. However, there are also identity thieves whose motivation is stealing as much money as possible from unsuspecting victims.
To help keep your online identity secure, it helps to understand how these criminals operate. With the right education, you can learn how to avoid online pitfalls that result in scammers making fraudulent transactions in your name.
1. Phishing Scams
Phishing is one of the most common ways scammers are able to commit identity theft. Never enter your details on a website unless you are absolutely sure it is legitimate and secure. If you receive emails or message claiming there is a problem with one of your accounts, do not click on the provided link. If it is a phishing scam, it will bring you to a duplicate website where the scammer can steal your login details.
Always go directly to the company or service provider website in question. You can also contact a legitimate representative to establish if the contact was genuine. If a message alert asks you for sensitive personal details, such as your username and password, it is almost certainly a phishing scam.
2. Virus Protection
Professional scammers also use compromised websites to infiltrate your device and track your activities online. If the scammer is proficient enough in using and deploying software via a website, they can install what's called a key-logger on your device. Once installed, the hidden key-logger will record your every keystroke – including your login details for banks and shopping websites.
The scammer is then able to access your accounts and perform various actions, including making online purchases. Most scammers at this level are careful to keep their purchases small in the beginning so as not to raise suspicion. However, once he or she has access to another account there is a very real likelihood they will begin purchasing expensive items before you notice there is a problem.
3. Unique Passwords
Password etiquette plays an important part in preventing identity theft. If you use the same password for every account, scammers have an easier job of gaining access to your bank or credit card account. It only takes one breached account for all your other accounts to become compromised. If you use unique passwords, however, you can limit the potential damage.
A long password with a mixture of characters provides added protection. For example “Password1” is a weak password, whereas “T47!Gh1S?952” is much harder for a scammer to crack. Don't worry if you can't remember the password. Use a password manager to store all your unique login details and make sure to change your passwords every 30 days.
4. Legitimate Websites
Most people use a search engine to compare the price of items they wish to purchase. Your search will typically list websites that sell the item at the top of the page. These websites are normally reputable, but it is always wise to check that your purchase will be secure. The first thing to look for is “https” in the website address. This means the website provides a secure connection and encrypts any details you enter. It also helps to search for reviews of the retailer to get an idea of the user experience.
Although https is intended to protect users from scammers seeking to steal personal details, it does have vulnerabilities. To add another layer of protection, it is advisable to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This software is available for purchase and will mask your location as well as provide encryption for any information you share on the web.
5. Keep Your Information Personal
You wouldn't walk into a busy public area and start shouting out your personal information. So why do it online? It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking your online profiles are your safe space. However, scammers are lurking everywhere, just waiting to steal valuable information you willingly post in groups, forums, friends posts, and even your own profile.
6. Warning Signs of Theft Online
You should always take an active role in monitoring your important accounts. Make sure you are receiving your statements each month and check recent purchases periodically. Banks, online retailers, and cell phone accounts are just some of the services scammers target. Remain vigilant and catch identity thieves before they clean out your bank account.
7. SSL Certificates
SSL Certificates are like small secret data files that provide secure connection between server and browser. A proper SSL certificate provides encryption and authentication. This means you can be sure that you are sending information to the right server and not to a hacker trying to steal your information. A wildcard SSL certificate covers your site domain and its sub domains. Here is a list of cheap wildcard SSL certificate providers that saves you money. Go and secure your website.