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7 ways to prevent an identity theft online

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Today, life is digitally wired and hyper-connected in a way that digital foot-printing is almost inescapable.

Our day starts when the phone alarm beeps in the morning. Facebook chats and routine office work take place almost simultaneously and banking transactions are just a click away. In this daily hustle bustle, we overlook the potential danger of being a victim of an identity theft, which is on the rise in India in the wake of increasing adaptation to the internet.

On top of that, the "Save Paper, Save Environment" mission has finally steered us into the habit of saving all our bills and documents in soft copy form. Most of the time for ready access, all our classified statements along with their passwords are stored in our laptops or smartphones. Failing to protect it can jeopardize our financial planning efforts.

What is identity theft?
Identity theft is stealing of information belonging to another person and using it for personal or financial gain. Savvy identity thieves are engaging in more sophisticated crimes by pulling out key pieces of personal information, such as name, address, contact details, bank details, and investment and tax details.

What leads to identity theft?
Identity thieves have devised various techniques to steal information, some of which are listed below:

  • Wallets, smartphones and laptops are a storehouse of personal data and are obvious targets of identity thieves.
  • E-mails are hacked to access banking transactions, credit card offers or pre-approved loan offers. They even divert this information to separate email addresses through change of address forms.
  • Online shopping portals are also a huge store of personal information database.
  • E-commerce sites sell or exchange your personal information with third parties, which leads to unwanted mails and calls from possible fraudsters.
  • 'Shoulder surfing' is another way where identity thieves could look over your shoulder to see the PIN for your ATM card.


Identity protection
As the efforts to outmanoeuvre identity thieves evolve, so do the thieves' tactics. These preventive measures will ensure that your digital life is safe and secure:

  • Buy security software that updates automatically: Make sure that the security software, operating system and browsers on your computer are up to date. You can usually set these programs to update automatically.
  • Take a back-up on an external hard drive: Back-up your computer data to an external hard drive. You may also want to consider printing your most important files, such as financial documents, so if your digital copies are compromised, you'll have hard copies.
  • Keeping it 'in the cloud': Like your laptop, computer or smartphone, external hard drives are vulnerable to fire, theft or other threats. Rather take a back-up of the data to an online data storage server, also known as "cloud storage".
  • Strengthen your passwords: Never use the same password for more than one login account and never keep smartphones unlocked. Be creative with your passwords and never save it on your laptop or smartphones.
  • Encrypt your data: Always do online transactions by using an encrypted, secure connection. Not sure if a site is encrypted? Check your browser's status bar. A "lock" symbol means that your data can be safely exchanged. Be aware and avoid making financial transactions on a public wireless (Wi-Fi) networks. An unsecured and open network means anyone can see what data you send and receive.
  • Switch on alerts: Take full advantage of banking services by subscribing to mobile and email alerts every time banking or credit card transactions take place. This will keep you aware of any unauthorized transactions.
  • Trash carefully: Be vigilant while destroying documents containing personal details. It is advised to shred these documents completely before putting them into a trash bin.

The primary concern is that criminals might take your identity details to create a new profile, apply for loans and products in your name, which could land you in encounters with debt collectors, court actions and bad credit status. Yet, as long as we take sensible precautions ourselves, the risks are limited.

InvestmentYogi.com is a leading personal finance portal.

Disclaimer: All information in this article has been provided by InvestmentYogi.com and NDTV Profit is not responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the same.

Story first published on: July 04, 2013 11:13 (IST)

Tags: online transaction, financial safety


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