What is Identity Theft? (and How to Prevent It)

There’s no denying that identity theft is on the rise in the UK. In 2016, the number of victims of identity theft was 57% greater than that of the previous year, with more than 85% of these instances taking place online. As the numbers continue to rise it becomes more important that people learn how to prevent falling victim to identity theft online. What exactly is identity theft and what can you do to prevent it?

What is identity theft?

Broadly speaking, identity theft is any sort of crime in which a fraudster uses another person’s personal information - such as name, date of birth and bank account details - in order to impersonate someone else. An identity thief can then use this information to either access someone’s existing accounts or to open up new accounts in that person’s name. The most common types of identity theft include credit card fraud, benefits fraud, tax rebate fraud and telecommunications fraud.

How do identity thieves get my information?

As life becomes more virtual, it has simply gotten easier for fraudsters to commit identity theft. Gone are the days when criminals had to stalk you or go through your rubbish to get your information, as everything fraudsters need to know is now available to them online. Today cyber thieves can find a lot of information by researching social media profiles or sending out ‘phishing’ emails that trick people into giving out their sensitive information by appearing to be from a legitimate source, such as your bank.

Identity theft and public wi-fi

One of the fastest growing methods that criminals are using in order to commit identity theft is by stealing sensitive information as it travels through unsecure public wifi networks. With public wifi networks, such as those found in coffee shops and hotels, data is not encrypted as it travels from one place to another, meaning it is very easy for a hacker to steal your private information if you are paying for things online or inputting other sensitive data. As use of public wifi networks continues to grow quite rapidly, this is one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to prevent identity theft.

How to prevent identity theft

Luckily, there are a few simple things you can do to make it much less like likely that you will fall victim of identity theft. First of all, be careful about what you share online and check the privacy settings on all your social media accounts to make sure you are not sharing any information with strangers. Secondly, only use your credit card on websites you trust and be aware than no legitimate website would ever ask you to send your sensitive information over email.

Using a VPN to prevent identify theft

Finally, one of the best things you can do in order to prevent identity theft is to download a VPN. A VPN is a type of software that changes your IP address and encrypts all your information so that no one will be able to hack into your connection and steal your private information. Using a VPN is especially vital if you regularly use private wifi networks and don’t want to wait until you’re home to buy things online. Plus the cool thing about VPNs is that you can also change what location it appears you are accessing the web from, meaning you can use it to unblock sites such as streaming sites that are restricted where you are. At ZenMate we’ve created a VPN for both your laptop and mobile, head over to our product page to check them out now.

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