As every 2 seconds, someone in North America is a victim of identity theft, it is advisable to follow a few simple guidelines in order to reduce the risk of becoming an easy prey. Here are a few easy ways that anyone can apply today:
Pay attention to any social engineering attempts
Social engineering has become almost an art in the recent years. Criminals have specific tactics they employ to get information from their victims. They use multiple sources of information available online about the victim, about the victim's habits, then, once they have their play, ready to be set in motion, they execute with precision. Very few people can spot a highly trained social engineering expert. One can be targeted at the workplace or during day to day activities. Most attempts are done through email or phone, but some may be done in person as well. Being contacted on social media is as well, a way of being pulled in a social engineering scheme.
2. Do not reveal important information about you on social media
Social media is at the present time, the easiest way to collect information about a specific person. From car plates to where someone's children go to school, their daily activities, vacations, one can find all sort of things like detailed information like phone numbers, emails, addresses and even legal documents, that some people post on their social media. Your friends and family usually know your phone number, there is no need for the rest of the world to know it. Children are the most exposed to such dangers, as they do not get a proper training from their parents or school about the dangers of online activity.
3. Plan a personal information safe disposal system
What do I mean when I say a personal information disposal system? I am referring to all the information we are receiving by mail, by email or the information we have on phones, hard-drives, usb sticks or other storage devices, that we want to remove and delete. For example, on a hard drive, even after deleting all the information on it, there still remains a trace of that information on the disk and that information can be restored with a special software. Same with regular documents, including receipts, invoices and other type of mail, it is advisable to shred these and not throw them into the recycling bin.
4. Online protection against malware
It is unacceptable to not have any sort of protection when it comes to malware. Why? Because one can get infected with a spyware, with a malware, with a rootkit or data deleted even by just visiting trusted websites. These websites can be compromised or they can host malvertising (regular advertising for a malicious software or website). On top of that, there are many vulnerabilities that malicious programs can exploit to get in and infect a device. It is important to understand that these infections are trying to either steal your passwords or to block your devices, all the information on those devices and request a ransom from you for that data. It is a business for them, they want your money, they will resort to extortion to get that money. There are free versions of anti-malware software for android, for iOS and for windows. Anyone should have at least a free antivirus, but a paid software anti-malware is the best way to go, in order to have adequate protection.
5. Be proactive and always do a credit check on regular bases
Most identity theft victims are unaware of an attack being in progress against them. It can go over a year until any traces of their attacks surface. Most of the time, the institutions or the authorities are noticing the victim of the situation. Make sure to check the status of your credit on regular bases. There are also special services that a person can subscribe to in order to get early detection and protection against identity theft. Better safe than sorry.
While there is no 100% protection against this type of attacks, most victims are negligent with their personal information making it easier for criminals to succeed. Prevention is the key to mitigate the risks of such activity.