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With a new year comes New Year’s resolutions. While many of these will involve gym memberships and healthier diets, one area that everyone should look to improve in 2018 is their defenses against identity theft. Not only is this type of crime intensely personal, it can also ruin your credit score and hurt your financial future.
Avoiding the problem altogether is better than picking up the pieces of your life afterward, so let’s take a look at some steps you can take to avoid identity theft in 2018.
Keep your passwords complex
If your username for your online banking account is the same as your Xbox Live handle and your password is literally “password”, you’re opening yourself up to attack. What’s more, if you’re relying on the same password for multiple accounts, you’re creating multiple points of failure for a hacker to exploit. Thankfully, we’ve produced multiple articles on this particular topic to help you avoid identity theft.
The internet has allowed for a pretty interesting phenomena in terms of how people share information. If you asked someone to stand on a busy street corner with a picture of their breakfast, they’d look at you like you were insane. However, millions of people do this every single day with their Instagram accounts without a second thought.
When a criminal decides to target someone for an identity theft scheme, they sometimes begin their attack by simply researching the person’s social media accounts. If the intended victim doesn’t have privacy settings set up, or if they do but simply accept any invitation that comes their way, they’re basically allowing the hacker an intense look into their entire life.
“It’s never a good idea to use your birth year as part of a password.”
One of the reasons this is so dangerous has to do with the reliance on security questions in order to bypass login credentials. When you forget your password, many sites ask you the name of your first dog or your favorite teacher in order to reset it. If this information is easily found on your Facebook page, you might as well not have a password at all.
While many companies are already starting to shift away from security questions, it’s your job to ensure that hackers aren’t able to use them to their advantage. To begin, you’ll want to make sure that your posts are only readable by people on your friends list. On top of that, you should question the validity of any account that wants to friend you. Many hackers will use the picture of an attractive person to entice victims, despite the fact that they’ve never posted and have few other friends. It’s also important not to use information found on these accounts for your login credentials. For instance, it’s never a good idea to use your birth year as part of a password.
Verify the authors of strange emails/messages
While hackers very often have complex techniques for gaining access to your personal information, nothing beats simply asking you for it. Phishing is an identity theft tactic that’s been used since about 1995, according to Phishing.org. All the criminal has to do is act as though they are someone who’s reputable long enough for the victim to give up data that can be used to impersonate them.
What’s more, many hackers have moved outside of email in favor of social media accounts. One woman in Ohio lost $4,500 to a criminal who told her through a Facebook message that she had won a $200,000 lottery. As it is with many of these scams, this woman was elderly and believed the message had come from a friend.
Therefore, it is important to stay on guard when sifting through your inbox. Setting up a fake account is incredibly easy, and the number of images on the internet allow hackers to impersonate whoever they want to. What’s more, many criminals simply gain access to a person’s account in order to spam their friends with messages containing malware. If you ever run into a situation where a friend is asking you weird questions or trying to get you to clink on a suspicious link, try to connect with this person over the phone or in real life to verify.