Although the most common causes of identity theft are still a lost wallet or a stolen credit card, online abuses are playing an increasingly significant role. Every time we sign up for a web-based service – whether it’s online banking or Facebook – we lose a little more control over our identity. And it’s not just adults that are at risk. Thieves are increasingly targeting minors because of their clean credit history and the length of time it can take to uncover misuse.
While there is no software or another device that can completely eliminate the possibility of identity theft, there are a number of small actions we can take that will greatly reduce our vulnerability. Here are some suggestions on how to minimize the risk:
- Safeguard all your personal information, not just your Personal Public Service number (PPSN). Your name, address, bank account details, date of birth – all this information can help thieves build a profile and take over your identity.
- Make sure you use strong, unique passwords for all online services and transactions. Consider using an independent password manager.
- Use a credit monitoring service, so you should be warned about strange purchases or attempts to open new accounts in your name.
- Keep a record of your credit card and bank account information, so you can take quick action to close or freeze accounts if they are compromised.
- If you do have to submit your personal information online, look for evidence that the information is being encrypted, so it can only be read by the intended recipient. Secure sites usually have web addresses that begin with “https” rather than the usual “http” and display a lock icon on the address bar.
- Use anti-virus and Internet security software to reduce your exposure to malware and other online risks.
In addition to the above information, Hacked is an insightful RTE programme illustrating the reality of cyber threats, including criminals targeting personal banking and healthcare, as well as national power grids and transport systems. Watch the full episode online.