There are numerous ways hackers and scammers can capture details that will allow them to assume your online identity. In some cases, the perpetrator steals another person’s identity simply to cause harassment. However, there are also identity thieves whose motivation is to steal as much money as possible from unsuspecting victims.
To help keep your online identity safe, it helps to understand how these criminals operate. With the proper education, you can learn how to avoid online scams that result in fraudsters making fraudulent transactions on your behalf.
1. Phishing scams
Phishing is one of the most common ways scammers can commit identity theft. Never enter your details on a website unless you are absolutely sure that it is legitimate and secure. If you receive emails or messages stating that there is a problem with one of your accounts, please do not click on the link provided. If it’s a phishing scam, it will take you to a duplicate website where the scammer can steal your login details.
Always go directly to the website of the company or service provider in question. You can also contact a legitimate representative to establish whether the contact was genuine. If a message alert asks you for sensitive personal information, such as your username and password, it’s almost certainly a phishing scam.
2. Virus protection
Professional scammers also use compromised websites to infiltrate your device and track your online activities. If the scammer is skilled enough in using and deploying software via a website, they can install what is called a keylogger on your device. Once installed, the hidden keylogger will record every keystroke, including login details for banks and shopping websites.
The scammer can then access your accounts and perform various actions, including making purchases online. Most scammers at this level are careful to keep their purchases small at first so as not to arouse suspicion. However, once he or she has access to another account, there’s a very real chance they’ll start buying expensive items before you even realize there’s a problem.
3. Unique passwords
The password tag plays an important role in preventing identity theft. If you use the same password for each account, it will be easier for scammers to gain access to your bank or credit card account. It only takes one breached account for all your other accounts to be compromised. However, by using unique passwords, you can limit the potential damage.
A long password with a combination of characters provides additional protection. For example, “Password1” is a weak password, while “T47!Gh1S?952” is much more difficult for a scammer to crack. Don’t worry if you can’t remember the password. Use a password manager to store all of your unique login details, and be sure to change your passwords every 30 days.
4. Legitimate Websites
Most people use a search engine to compare the price of the items they want to buy. Your search will usually include websites that sell the item at the top of the page. These websites are usually reputable, but it is always wise to check that your purchase is safe. The first thing to look for is “https” in the website address. This means that the website provides a secure connection and encrypts any information you enter. It also helps to look up reviews of the retailer to get an idea of the user experience.
Although https is meant to protect users from scammers looking to steal personal data, it does have vulnerabilities. To add another layer of protection, it is recommended to use a virtual private network (VPN). This software is available for purchase and will mask your location and provide encryption for any information you share on the web.
5. Keep your personal information
You wouldn’t walk into a crowded public area and start yelling your personal information. So why do it online? It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your online profiles are your safe space. However, scammers lurk everywhere, hoping to steal valuable information that you willingly post in groups, forums, friend posts, and even on your own profile.
6. Warning signs of online theft
You should always play an active role in following up on your important accounts. Be sure to get your statements each month and check back on recent purchases regularly. Banks, online retailers, and cell phone accounts are just a few of the services scammers target. Stay alert and catch identity thieves before they clean out your bank account.
7. SSL Certificates
SSL certificates are like small secret data files that provide a secure connection between the server and the browser. A proper SSL certificate provides encryption and authentication. This means that you can be sure that you are sending information to the correct server and not to a hacker trying to steal your information. A wildcard SSL certificate covers your site’s domain and its subdomains. Here is a list of cheap wildcard SSL certificate providers that save you money. Go ahead and secure your website.