Identity theft has been on a constant rise for decades. However, since the start of the pandemic, the numbers have doubled in a year. With nearly 1.4 million cases in 2020 as opposed to the 650,000 in 2019.
With an ever-growing problem that only looks to become worse each year, everyone must understand how they should protect their identity during the pandemic.
Let’s look at some of the best steps you can take to protect your identity, so you never have to deal with the emotional, stressful, and financial fallout caused by this harmful interaction.
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Check your accounts
You should be checking your bank account every day. This includes savings accounts and even credit card accounts. When you wake up in the morning, take a couple of minutes to look over your accounts and ensure that the balances are correct and there is no unauthorised activity anywhere.
Change your passwords
When online sites ask you to use an obscure password that must include certain special characters and numbers, they are doing it to protect you. Even though they’re hard to remember and most people prefer to use their hometown as a password, this can protect you from being hacked.
Create strong passwords, for example, ones suggested by your Google account, and remember to change them all regularly. With so much of our lives now moving online, every account you have must be secure.
Using a VPN service
With the staggering rise of identity thefts due to advancing technology and the pandemic, it’s more important than ever that people take necessary steps to protect themselves. Using a VPN service is a simple and effective way of doing that. A VPN service (https://nordvpn.com) secures your internet connection, encrypts your personal data, and prevents your information from being stolen.
Don’t post personal information
Remove any information from your social media accounts that someone could use to breach your online accounts. There is no reason why you should be putting your date of birth, phone number, or email address on public forums. Any identifying information should never be available to anyone.
Also, keep your social media accounts locked or private. Check your settings to ensure that only people you know can see your profile.
Phone your bank if you have any suspicion
It’s far better to phone your bank about suspicious activity on your account and be wrong than to ignore it and end up losing your money or even more. If you notice any payments or money transfers that you don’t remember or don’t recognise, phone your bank immediately.
They’ll be able to give you more information about the transaction. Your bank will not mind helping you, so don’t worry about wasting their time if the transfer turns out to be something normal.
Check your credit score
Sometimes the quickest way to see if you have been a victim of identity theft is by checking your credit score. For example, if your score is usually in the high 800s, but it has dropped two hundred points, then something has gone wrong.
For example, your ID might be used to take out a loan, credit card, or used for other strange activities. Keep an eye on your credit score, and immediately contact the credit agency or relevant authorities if your ID has been used.
Some key scams you should know about
New scams have started making the rounds during the pandemic, in which people are taking advantage of others for their gain. Some of the most common ones to be aware of are:
If you have regular deliveries such as groceries and household items, make sure you are ordering directly from the store. If someone you don’t know offers to run to the store for you, it’s best to turn them down. People are handing over cash and never hearing from the person again.
If you would like to donate money to food banks and local hospitals, confirm that the charity is registered. Additionally, please don’t send money to someone because they tell you they are working on behalf of a charity. Verify their status with the charity first, as many people have been known to knock on doors or cold call pretending to work for a charity when they don’t.
Due to the increased financial struggles, ID theft is now fiercer than ever. And the more desperate people become, the more ways they find to steal your information and benefit from defrauding you. However, you don’t need to panic, be sure to follow our steps, including checking your accounts and using a VPN service while using the internet. Be vigilant, look out for red flags, and don’t be shy about saying no if someone asks for information you’re not comfortable with.