Identity theft is any type of deception or scam that results in the loss of personal data, including the loss of usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers or health ID’s, that is then used without your permission to commit fraud or other malicious actions.
The number of people falling prey to identity theft has been steadily increasing. Attacks on databases of businesses, government agencies and other institutions represent a danger when it comes to data breaches.
For someone identity theft is solely perceived as an inconvenience as they can quickly restore their identity. For others recovering their identity can cost in the order of thousands of dollars, take months to resolve, while also cause tremendous damage to their reputation, and for example influence the outcome of loan applications because loan companies see the damage on their credit scores.
How are Identities Stolen?
Everyone now uses the resources the internet can provide. We rely on the internet to send emails, share photos and post on social networking sites, shop online for clothes or search for information.
Free public Wi-Fi hotspots have also become a convenience for people to connect to the internet when they are away from home. Unfortunately, many people are unknowingly too casual with how they manage their personal information and activities online. This makes many users vulnerable to identity theft and at risk of having their privacy invaded.
When a user visits a website, logs in to their email, posts an update on Facebook, or does any other activity online, they inevitably leave digital footprints that can be tracked and traced back to their identity.
Moreover, using public Wi-Fi opens an attack surface for hackers and cybercriminals to steal private information such as passwords, credit card information, or bank account information since most public Wi-Fi connections are not password-protected.
Considering the interconnected online world, users can also easily fall for phishing and scam attempts or download malware to their desktops or smartphones. As hackers get access to sensitive information, they exploit it by misappropriating funds, the identity of the victim or use it for ransom.
Having personal and sensitive information fall into the wrong hands could prove very expensive and cause major inconveniences for anyone. Users going online, especially via unknown networks, should take at least some precautionary measures to shield themselves from the risks of having their data intercepted.