Every human inherently possesses a unique set of valuable and personal assets – an identity. Identity theft entails the utility of an existing individual’s private data without their knowledge and permission. This is regardless of whether the person is living or deceased.
There are a multitude of reasons that a perpetrator of the online crime would purport such an act. It may linger around tangible or intangible gains, respectively, monetary or reputational. Perhaps the intent may even revolve around retribution.
It is both financially and emotionally devastating for victims of this crime.
The wealth of personal information is insurmountable to an equivalent sum of money. The elaborate schemes to trick someone in providing personal information have become extremely evolved. A scammer attributes most of their time to build desirable bait for the victim. Once caught up in the net, it will be difficult for the victim to escape.
“They leverage your trust by tricking you into divulging personal information, like passwords or account numbers”
What are the common ways to steal my information?
In this modern and technologically adept century, identity theft is not the mere mimicking of an individual. The top 6 ways that a scammer may con a victim include:
1. Phishing scams
These are usually delivered in the form of an email or a pop-up window on a website. It copies the template of a financial institution (most likely a bank) in order to grasp an individual’s personal and commercial details. By storing this information, leads to potentially impactful financial ordeals including monetary withdrawals or the creation of ghost bank loans.
2. Phoney fraud alerts
The glory (and gory) of telephone network is its ability to facilitate direct feedback. This type of response mechanism encourages manipulation through negotiation over the line. These scammers subtly execute this method through the false reliance of information to the victim. With an unwieldy mindset, it is likely that the victim will provide purely emotionally evoked responses and submit to what the scammers ask of them.
3. Bogus job opportunities
Remember when the life paradox, ‘if it’s too good to be true, then it’s probably too good to be true’. The e-mail in your mailbox or the inbox message in your professional LinkedIn profile may strike to you as an unbelievable job opportunity. Don’t be fooled. This is probably a sly deterrent from the scammer’s intent to steal one’s identity. Through the victim’s unknowing submission of their professional profile, one can easily take on their façade for personal gain.
4. Banking online
Just like any other service online, inputting security details online have many risks. As one is on their ’supposed’ bank website (e.g. Netbank) a script may substitute the bank page without one’s knowledge as they switch windows, even momentarily. When the login details are typed in – these details will be kept in the HTML of the fraudulent IP owner. Once collected by the hacker, they may be able to garner and exploit the money in the accounts of victims.
Synonymous to key-loggers, a spyware is a virus that is unknowingly downloaded on the computer of the user and as its name suggest – tracks every movement when one uses their computer. It will be logged, including every word or number typed. All personal information will be collated to draft an online persona profile of that individual. With more and more data collected, every time the person uses the computer, a completed profile will eventually be formulated and become the most destructive facet of one’s identity.
6. Card skimming
The hacker is able to use technology to copy the information from the magnetic strip of the ATM card to create a replica. Taking not only the credit information of one’s bank account, the hacker can hijack the privacy further by taking the online information and positing that façade in the nearest bank branch to create ghost accounts.
How to protect yourself
“Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the nation”
– Melissa Bean
Before it’s too late to remedy the situation, it is important to prevent oneself from becoming victim of the biggest online crime, identity theft, by:
Identifying the warning signs
- Don’t bypass the odd feeling from a suspicious e-mail, SMS or phone call
- Keep a keen eye on bank details including large sums of debits from bank statements
- Anyone, including close friends, who ask for personal information – of course we’re not promoting paranoia, however becoming a wise user of the Internet entails practicing safety precautions to certain degree
- Keep all important personal information, safely filed in a place only you will know
- Shred any physical evidence of personal information when in expiry
- Formulating a digital asset plan by sufficiently managing it and creating an estate for after death
Understanding protocols and decide appropriately
- ANY contract or request for information ONLINE must always be double-checked (if not triple checked) through thorough research to ensure invaluable authenticity
- If it doesn’t seem like it is something ‘a corporation may do’ (e.g. a bank requesting for a user check, requiring one to put in details), then it probably isn’t.
- Don’t be afraid to ask
- Contacting the respective company that you believe may be creating a fraud may assist not only oneself but also many others in society
- Ask if there are further concerns
- Learn how the government regulations and laws are in your favour
The overall costs for identity theft settles around $1.4 billion for the Australian government and $24.7 billion for the US government, every single year. It’s sad to say that the majority of the victims are aged 65 and over, formally bracketed as the retirees. Their inexperience to the idea of communication via the net or telephone, further fuel their vulnerability of the senior citizens in society. Take the appropriate steps now to protect yourself before it’s too late to be protected from identity theft.