Protecting yourself against identity theft and other online fraud

You might consider yourself an unlikely target for cybersecurity threats. This is probably true, but the reality is that everyone with a digital footprint on the Internet is at risk of online fraud. Most Internet-users think that cybercriminals will prioritise high-value or, so-called, important targets. In fact, online fraudsters prioritise smaller, easier and more susceptible targets, represented by average consumers.

As we continue to digitalise more and more parts of our lives, we become more vulnerable to these cyber-attacks. In fact, the incredible digital transformations over the past year, due to the pandemic, have left us more vulnerable than ever. Identity theft is one of the many types of online fraud that can, instantaneously, turn your life upside-down and risk your financial well-being.

Here are some suggestions for how to keep your online identity, information and accounts safe from these nefarious actors:

Try using a password manager

Modern Internet-users will have around seventy or eighty passwords to keep track of and most of them will reuse the same passwords for multiple accounts. This is understandable because keeping track of dozens of unique passwords can be difficult. A password manager is the perfect solution for this problem.

A password manager allows you create multiple strong and unique passwords for your online accounts without having to remember them all. The manager helps you encrypt and secure all of these passwords behind a master password and within their protected servers. Your master password becomes the only password that you have to keep safe and remember – helping guarantee your online security and prevent hacks.

A good, general rule is to not allow your computer or mobile device to remember passwords for you, unless it’s through a secure password-management app. Avoid using details related to yourself that are easily accessible through your social media and online presence. Always remember to reset any passwords of accounts that’ve been breached and design all your new passwords to be as unique as possible.

Ensure multifactor authentication

Multifactor authentication can seem like a drag, but the reality is that multifactor authentication is one of the most important cyber security tools available to us. An example of multifactor authentication are codes sent to your phone via text message before making an online purchase or logging into an account. It’s an effective and simple added layer of security for any type of online account.

Don’t overshare online

The voluntary sharing of personal information on the Internet isn’t a unique trend, but those of us who share the most information online are the ones most susceptible to identity theft. We all need to rethink how much and what we share online. The combination of acquired personal information and “quiet” data can help fraudsters assume your identity more easily.

You should consider removing as much personal information from your social media as possible. Avoid sharing details like your: date of birth, address, phone number, mother’s maiden name, pet’s name, etc. Try limiting access to your social media accounts to friends and family by utilising app-based security features and restrictions. Use your privacy settings to disable features like geo-tracking and tagging, and avoid social media quizzes and face apps that collect personal and biological data.

Protect your online privacy at home and out in public

All Internet-users need to secure their home wireless networks and Wi-Fi setups. Hacking these can be a more direct route to your data, online activity and, eventually, identifying information. Only make use of IoT devices that allow you to change passwords and manage your own security settings. Dispose of old phones, laptops and hard drives carefully and securely; the same goes for disposing of personal documents. Always ensure that items like passports, ID cards and wallets are kept safe and out of reach.

The reality is that public Wi-Fi is almost never secure. This is a perfect opportunity for nefarious actors to take advantage of an exposing situation. Never use public Wi-Fi to upload or view important information, such as pay checks, online banking, medical services and visa applications. Don’t share the kind of information that was mentioned earlier when in public. ID and passport numbers, memberships, credit card information and so many other pieces of information are being used to assume someone’s digital identity, accessed in a public setting.

Don’t become an easy target

It can seem like an endless battle to face-off against the continuous, fraudulent schemes that cybercriminals come up with. The proliferation of online scams over the past decade and, especially, during the pandemic have left many online users feeling overwhelmed and unprotected.

It’s important to remember that you’re not helpless and have a variety of steps to help secure your online presence.  Cybercriminals hate to face obstacles and, as we mentioned, will go after the easiest and most vulnerable targets. You can prevent most cybercriminal activity by keeping your online data carefully-curated and personal information protected.

MarisIT are committed to protecting South Africans and their businesses from the growing threat of cyber fraud. Our products and services are focused on mitigating cybersecurity risks to keep your online activity safe and secure. For more information, contact MarisIT today.

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