In 2016, $16 billion was stolen from more than 15 million American consumers, according to a study from Javelin Strategy & Research. That figure is up from $15.3 billion the previous year.
Cyberattacks and data breaches are to blame for many cases of identity theft. While there are no surefire ways to protect people’s identities, there are steps they can take to minimize the risk.
1. Avoid Oversharing
Don’t be so quick to give away information online. Sophisticated cyber criminals will hack the social media accounts of friends and pose as them. If not careful, consumers may wind up unknowingly giving away personal information that can be used to steal their identities.
2. Keep an Eye on Accounts
Account monitoring is one of the best ways to spot identity theft before the problem escalates into a catastrophe. Consumers should get into the habit of checking their credit reports frequently and keeping track of their credit scores.
Those who want a more hands-off approach can sign up for an identity monitoring program or sign up for alerts from credit card companies. Alerts let consumers know of suspicious activity on their accounts.
3. Use a VPN
A VPN (virtual private network) extends a private network through a public network, and allows users to send and receive data across these public or shared networks as if they were connected directly to the private network.
In a nutshell, a VPN makes it difficult or impossible to pinpoint the user’s exact location.
Searching for a torrenting VPNs ranking can help users find a reliable service, even if they don’t plan to torrent.
4. Don’t Click Unknown Links
Many consumers still fall victim to phishing schemes, particularly older internet users. As a general rule of thumb, users should never click on a link in an email or text from a stranger.
Some cyber criminals masquerade as friends of the victim, which makes it even more important to verify the identity of the person sending the message before clicking.
5. Use Different Passwords
Using the same password for multiple accounts is a recipe for disaster. If a hacker gets the password for one account, he or she will automatically have access to multiple accounts.
Each account, particularly important financial-related accounts, should have its own unique, complex password with letters, numbers and symbols.
Avoid keeping passwords saved behind a single password.
6. Consider Multi-Step Authentication and Encryption
Multi-step authentication and encryption are two effective ways to prevent unwanted access to personal information.
Multi-step authentication typically involves the entering of a password and the use of an external device, such as a smartphone, to allow access to the account. This level of authentication offers great protection, as the hacker would have to have the phone linked to the account in order to gain access. He or she may have the password but not the phone, which will deny access.
Encryption will also make it more difficult for accounts and personal information to be hacked. There are several encryption programs on the market that are relatively easy to use.