Today, life is digitally wired and hyper-connected in a way that digital foot printing is almost inescapable. Our day starts when phone alarm beeps us in the morning, Facebook chats and routine office work happen almost simultaneously and banking transactions are just clicks away. In this daily hustle bustle, we overlook the potential danger of being a victim of identity theft, which is on a rise in India in the wake of increasing adaptation to the internet.
On top of that, “Save Paper, Save Environment” mission has finally steered us into the habit of saving all our bills and documents in soft copy form. Most of the time for ready access, all our classified statements along with their passwords are stored in our laptops or Smart phones. Failing to protect it can jeopardize our financial planning efforts.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is stealing of information from another person and using it for personal or financial gain. Savvy identity thieves are engaging in more sophisticated crimes by pulling out key pieces of personal information which includes name, address, contact details, bank details, and investment and tax details.
What leads to Identity theft?
Identity thieves have devised various techniques to steal information, of which few are listed below: -
Wallets, Smart phones and Laptops are a storehouse of personal data and are obvious targets of identity thieves.
Mails are hacked to access banking transactions, credit card offers or pre-approved loan offers. They even divert this information to separate email ids through change of address forms.
Online shopping portals are also a huge store of personal information database.
E-commerce sites sell or exchange your personal information with third parties, which leads to unwanted mails and calls from unknown possible fraudsters.
‘Shoulder surfing’ is another way where identity thieves could look over your shoulder to see the punch in PIN for your ATM card.
As the efforts to outmaneuver identity thieves evolve, so do the thieves’ tactics. These preventive measures will ensure that your digital life is safe and secure:
Buy security software that updates automatically
Make sure that the security software, operating system and browsers on your computer are up-to-date. You can usually set these programs to update automatically.
Take back-up on external hard drive for data storage
Back-up your computer data to an external hard drive. You may also want to consider printing off your most important files, such as financial documents, so if your digital copies are compromised, you’ll have hard copies.
Keeping it ‘in the cloud’
Like your laptop, computer or Smartphone, external hard drives are vulnerable to fire, theft or other threats. Rather take a back-up of the data to an online data storage server, also known as “Cloud storage” — means that it is protected no matter what happens to your home.
Strengthen your passwords
Never use the same password for more than one login account and never keep Smart phones unlocked. Be creative with your passwords and never save it onto your laptop or Smart phones.
Encrypt your data
Always do online transactions by using an encrypted, secure connection. Not sure if a site is encrypted? Check your browser’s status bar. A “lock” symbol means that your data can be safely exchanged. Be aware and avoid making financial transactions on a public wireless (WiFi) networks; an unsecured and open network means anyone can see what data you send and receive.
Switch on alerts
Take full advantage of banking services by subscribing to mobile and email alerts for every time banking or credit card transactions happen. This will keep you aware of any unauthorized transaction.
Be vigilant while destroying documents containing personal details. It is advised to shred these documents completely before putting it in a trash bin.
The primary concern is that criminals might take your identity details to create a new profile, apply for loans and products in your name, which could land you up in encounters with debt collectors, court actions and bad credit status. Yet, as long as we take sensible precautions ourselves, the risks are limited.