While the Internet comes with nmany benefits, it also has its downsides. For one, it’s an easy way for criminals to steal your personal information. With knowledge about their tactics, however, you can better protect yourself online. Check out these four ways people steal personal information online.
1. Credit Card Theft
Image via Flickr by pressuretobear
One of the easiest ways that people can steal credit card information is by creating a fraudulent site that looks trustworthy. From there, victims are lured to the site to enter credit card information. For example, you might be fooled into buying a product from the site and use your credit card. When making purchases online, always make sure that a site has the secure image (a padlock) before the address on the address bar.
Identity theft is so rampant that in 2012, the top complaint reported to the Consumer Sentinel Network was identity theft. The same report says that government document/benefit fraud was the most frequently reported form of identity theft. This is when someone illegally uses government documents (social security cards, driver’s licenses, etc.) in order to receive government benefits (welfare, unemployment benefits, etc.).
While this can occur offline, people can also steal this information from the Internet. Phishing is a technique where the thief poses as another individual to steal your personal information. For example, they might send you an email saying that they are your bank and that they need to verify your information. When you click on the link in the email, they’ll ask you to enter your social security number, date of birth, driver’s license number, or whatever other information they need. They can then use this information to create fake government documents.
Image via Flickr by Rober van der Steeg
With this tactic, criminals hack into your computer and literally spy on you. They can see everything you’re doing and watch as you enter usernames and passwords, allowing them access to your bank or credit card accounts along with other personal information.
Spyware is often connected to other software programs, and people download these programs thinking that they’re safe, such as game downloads, web links, and email attachments. Hackers might also create programs that look like something safe, such as a web browser update, so that people trust the program. To protect yourself, be careful about what you download and what links you click on.
Pretexting is a technique that criminals use to gain a certain amount of personal information before directly contacting you. First, they’ll do research on you, such as finding out about your marital status, telephone number, email address, home address, and other information that is often found on online directories. They then contact you, such as by calling you on the phone, and pose as a business that needs your information.
People often believe this scam because the person already has much of their personal information. To protect your personal information online, use services such as those at Reputation.com so that criminals can’t get their hands on your information in the first place.
Identity theft is a serious concern, and advancing technologies only makes it easier for criminals to get their hands on your information. Be careful about your online activity, and learn about other ways to protect yourself online.