What is identity theft?

There are two types of identity theft. The first involves the thief using your personal information to open new accounts in your name, such as credit card accounts, or mobile phone services. The second involves the thief using your personal information to get access to your existing accounts in order to run up a huge bill before you realize anything’s amiss. The Internet has made identity theft much easier than in the past. It’s now far easier to access personal data and rack up huge bills shopping online.

Identity theft
How does identity theft happen?

On the world wide web, thieves are able to use all sorts of nefarious means to access your personal data. These can include deploying viruses to infect your computer, sending phishing emails to try and trick you into revealing your passwords or other information, spying on your online activities and keystrokes, or even monitoring your network activity to catch all your most vital, personal data.

How do you recognize when your identity has been stolen?

Unfortunately, typically, the first sign of credit card theft happens when you get your first bill, or are notified that your account has been emptied. In complex schemes, fraudsters will use your mobile number to call high-cost, premium numbers in foreign countries, and in turn will get a kickback from the premium number operator. In extreme, but increasingly common cases, you might only discover that you’ve become a victim of identity theft when a debt collector comes knocking on your door to collect payment on purchases you never made.

How do you fix identity theft?

Depending on the scope of the theft, and how quickly it’s remedied, the damage done can be either manageable or massive. If you can prove your identity was stolen and work with your bank right away, it’s sometimes quite easy to get your money back and your life on track. But in other instances, it’s not that smooth. For example, your credit rating may be soured for years and/or you might be unable to convince your bank that you were the victim of a crime. For this reason, the best defence against identity theft is to practice safe, common-sense internet use and keep your PC protected.

Ways to prevent identity theft
  • Don’t ever give out your passwords or any data about your identity
  • Check everything you download to make sure it’s not malware
  • Carefully monitor your financial accounts and set up maximum daily limits
Protect yourself against identity theft

The best way to protect yourself against identity theft in the real world is to keep all your identifying documents such as your passport, driver’s license and national identity cards safe and out of sight. The same is true for protecting yourself online and the best way to do this is to use a robust antivirus like Avast Free Antivirus to keep all your personal details out of the hands of thieves and hackers.

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