Identity fraud (also often called identity theft) is a real and growing problem for both firms and individuals globally, with cases skyrocketing over recent years. In the US alone, through 2020, there were 49 million reported cases of ID theft totaling $56 billion – and the problem is only getting worse.
As people continue to entrust more and more of their sensitive data online in everything from social media platforms to e-com shopping sites, it’s becoming increasingly easy for hackers to intercept private details and go on to make fraudulent transactions.
Identity fraud – a definition
Identity fraud can occur in several different ways, everything from credit card fraud to impersonation, hacking, or account takeovers. In an ID fraud attack, a cybercriminal will gain access to your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and use these details maliciously against you, typically for financial gain. PII details could be anything from a credit card number and Card Verification Value (CVV) to passport numbers, date of birth details, account passwords, and social security numbers – in other words, anything that could be used to establish and impersonate your identity.
How to protect yourself from ID fraud
While there are no 100% secure solutions to preventing ID theft, there are some simple precautions you can take that will mitigate the risk.
Rule 101 – only give your sensitive information to responsible firms
It should come as no surprise that the more security-conscious a firm is, the less likely it is that your sensitive data will be intercepted or used for nefarious means. Before parting with any private information, ensure the company in question has a robust security policy and has taken adequate measures to protect your data. This rule should even be applied right at the base level of all transactions – i.e., with your choice of bank.
As a general guide, only go with trusted institutions that employ checks like Knowing Your Customer (KYC), which increases your protection. You should also read up on the various protective options available to companies and clients alike so you know what to look for. For example, understanding KYC and how it works will give you greater peace of mind when passing details to organizations or inputting data online.
Don’t leave mail sitting in your mailbox
ID theft doesn’t only happen online – it also happens in real life too, and often by the lowest-tech methods. Leaving mail sitting in your mailbox is an open invitation to fraudsters who can steal anything from bank statements to utility bills that can be used to masquerade as you.
Shred all important documents
Rather like the mailbox example above, if you put documents out to refuse that contain important private details, you’re giving an open invitation to a criminal to find out precious data about you. Always shred mail and documents that contain sensitive information.
Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on accounts
Banks have been using Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on accounts for many years, so most people are already familiar with the process. With 2FA, when you log into an account, you’ll be presented with a secondary layer of protection – normally a keycode request that is sent to your mobile device. While a criminal might intercept your user/pass credentials, it’s very unlikely they’ll also have access to your phone, so 2FA gives an extra, added layer to account sign-ins.