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How to Avoid Being an Identity Theft Victim and Steer Clear of Phishing Attacks

An illustration of a criminal phishing data from a computer

 

Cyber-crime is on the rise. Indeed, it is estimated that $86.4 billion was spent on information security in 2017. The evolution of phishing attacks in sophistication and frequency poses a huge threat to organizations and individuals. One form of cybercrime is internet phishing which has led to increased identity theft and fraud. Let’s first look into the phishing definition.

Phishing definition

Phishing is the process that criminals use to collect personal data from unsuspecting internet users. It is referred to as brand spoofing or carding. Phishers mask themselves as the authentic financial institutions, government agencies, banks, and any other legitimate businesses to obtain information such as social security numbers, passwords, and bank accounts. Phishing emails may even feature the corporate logo and a format that is similar to that used by the authentic company or institution. Criminals use this information to carry out identity theft and other cybercrimes.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is the unauthorized access to personal data through deception mostly for economic gain. Identity theft criminals could go ahead and open credit cards, take out loans, open bank accounts, and make purchases posing as the victim. The victim is in most cases left with bills to pay, a damaged credit score, and other charges.

How do phishers trick you into giving out personal information? It is a common phenomenon for companies to send out thousands of emails, and all that phishers need to do is get ahold of one and copy it. They then twist the message to lure you into visiting a fake website. Phishing emails may ask you to perform actions such as login and update your information or click a link to verify your identity.

Clicking on the link takes you to a fake website that looks exactly like the original website. In some cases, you will be required to login, and voila! The scammer has your login credentials and can now access your account on the genuine site. In other instances, the user may be prompted to key in personal information to verify their details.

How to identify a phishing email

  • The sender’s email address can help you know whether the email is authentic or not. In most cases, phishers use a public email address or add numbers or letters on to the authentic email address. For example, instead of www.ebay.com, phishers could use www.ebay1.com.
  • Phishing emails, in most cases, contain a sense of urgency. For instance, they could inform the user that suspicious activity has been identified on their account and that they need to urgently verify data such as their password or banking details. Do not use the contact details contained in the email or click on any link. It is advisable that you first hover the mouse over the link so as to see the real URL to the site. The URL may be either misspelled or completely different.
  • Poor spellings and grammar are also phishing email red flags. Take note of the writing style as it may be different from the authentic sender’s style.
  • Be wary of attachments as most contain malware that could steal your information once you open them.  

Due diligence for identity theft protection

  • Securing your devices with an up to date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-phishing software is one way of doing this. Such devices include computers, tablets, and smartphones. Use strong passwords for sensitive sites.  
  • People who shop on the internet or access bank accounts over the internet through e-banking are more susceptible to identity thefts. Ensure that you clear your passwords and login details especially if you use a public computer. It is prudent to change your login details at least monthly. It is advisable that you pay for online purchases through a credit card as opposed to online or debit cards payment.
  • Make sure you shred sensitive documents as a way of identity theft protection. Such documents could include credit card applications, bank statements, or any other documents with personal information.
  • Report an identity theft immediately. First, file a phishing report with your financial institution and creditors on any unapproved debits and charges. Close the compromised accounts and review your credit reports for any irregularities. You also need to report an identity theft with the local authorities.
  • Report any suspicious website or email. There are numerous agencies to which you can submit a phishing report, one of them being the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Check your credit reports once every few months and dispute any erroneous or fraudulent data. This applies to instances when you do not think that you have been a phishing victim too. Placing a security freeze on your credit report prevents any other person or company from accessing your credit report, apart from those with whom you have a financial relationship.

Do you want to gain more insights on phishing and identity theft? Are you a phishing victim? Visit CreditGUARD to learn about how you can secure yourself in the future. Call us at Call CreditGUARD Today.

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