What is identity theft? Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone steals your personal data and fraudulently uses it to run up charges, make purchases or otherwise gain access to your money. The problem with identity theft these days is the way criminals go about stealing your information. They use theft and scams to get information from you and once they have it, you’re usually left dealing with the aftermath and trying to get things back in order.
Here are some common methods identity thieves use online to steal their victim’s identity.
Malware is malicious software that can infect your computer or smartphone and steal information from you. It’s often disguised as legitimate software and programs that you need to download from the internet, such as an update to your operating system or antivirus software. But once installed on your device, malware can record your keystrokes, take screenshots of what you’re doing on your computer or smartphone, and even capture photos with your built-in cameras.
These are emails or websites that appear to be from a legitimate source but actually contain links or attachments that can be used by hackers to access your computer. For example, they might send you an email with a link that claims to be from PayPal or your bank asking you to update your account information. Don’t click on it — instead, call the company directly using the phone number listed on their website.
Fake websites and apps
Identity thieves create websites that look like real ones so they can trick people into giving them sensitive information like credit card numbers or Social Security numbers (SSNs). Sometimes these sites are designed to look like official government sites so people think they’re safe when they’re actually putting their personal data at risk.
Watering hole attacks
Watering hole attacks are similar to phishing attacks in that they leverage social engineering to get people to click on dangerous links or download malicious files. However, instead of sending emails directly to their targets, the attackers go after a third-party website that many people would visit, like Facebook or Twitter. This is called a watering hole because attackers are waiting for their prey in the same way lions wait for gazelles at watering holes in the wild. They want their victims to visit these sites so they can be infected with malware (or other types of malware) without even knowing it.
Keyloggers are applications that record everything you type on your computer keyboard, including usernames and passwords that are typed in private browsing windows on the browser. Keyloggers record everything they detect as keystrokes, including private browsing windows but not passwords typed in non-private browsing windows or other applications such as Facebook Messenger or Google Docs.
Most experts agree that the best way to protect against identity theft is to be vigilant and use strong passwords. It can also help to place a fraud alert on your credit file, or even freeze it completely. But one thing’s for sure: online identity theft is not going away anytime soon. And because of this, you’ll have to be proactive about protecting your personal information if you want to keep it safe.