Identity theft is definitely on the rise, and it can be surprisingly easy for criminals to misuse your personal information for fraudulent activities. The consequences of identity theft can be detrimental to your credit, your finances and your reputation.
In today's age of advanced technology and our love affair with social media, it is now easier for people with criminal intent to find out all about you. This year, the news of corporate databases being hacked has been rife, with Optus, Medibank, Latitude, and the Government being among the targets. Personal information stolen includes names, addresses, birth dates, driver's licence details, passport numbers and medical records.
How do you know if you have become a victim of identity theft? Besides staying updated with the latest news and receiving alerts from the likes of Medibank and Optus, here are five warning signs to look out for - and five ways to safeguard your personal information online.
1. Unexplained activity on your credit card
It's common for thieves to make a small transaction to confirm if they have access to your credit card details. This can make it difficult to spot suspicious activity right away. To stay on top of things, it’s a good idea to check your credit card transactions every few days. If you notice anything unusual, it's possible your credit card information may have been compromised.
2. Your credit score suddenly changes – and not in a good way
If you notice a sudden drop in your credit score, it's important to investigate further. There are several credit score providers to choose from, including Equifax, Experian and Illion. Keep an eye out for any credit applications that you did not make, as this could indicate that someone is using your identity to obtain credit in your name and leaving you to foot the bill.
3. Loan or credit applications being declined
If you have a good credit history and can afford the repayments, but your loan or credit application is denied, it's possible that someone has stolen your identity and accumulated debts under your name. If this happens, it's important to maintain clear communication with the lender to find out exactly why you have been denied and then investigate anything that appears suspicious.
4. Unauthorised transactions
If you notice transactions on your credit card statement that weren’t made by you, it’s important to act on it immediately as it could be a sign of someone stealing from you. Contact your credit card issuer as soon as possible – they will issue you with a new card and investigate the transaction or transactions. If they turn out to be fraudulent, you'll receive a refund.
5. Regular bills not turning up
If you regularly receive bills but they suddenly stop coming, this could also be a red flag to indicate that a thief may have changed your billing address to avoid detection. You should contact the bill issuer to find out why your invoice or statement hasn’t arrived.
Ensuring the security of your personal details online
In today's digital world, it's surprisingly easy for criminals to steal your personal information and your money! To protect yourself, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.
>> Secure the safety of your online accounts
In recent years, many companies have added extra protection for users on their platforms. To boost security, use password generators and managers to prevent hackers from accessing your account.
Additionally, you can enable two-step authentication on your digital accounts to provide another layer of security for yourself. This further enhances your control over your accounts and will make it more difficult for thieves to gain unauthorised access.
>> Think twice before clicking suspicious links
Data breaches can result from schemes such as phishing, smishing and fishing to obtain sensitive information from you:
If you receive an unexpected message or call from someone purporting to be from your bank or utility provider, always call the institution to verify that the message was sent by them.
>> Create multiple emails
It’s a good idea to create a separate email for your business and personal requirements. If your email address includes your full name, it’s easy for a scammer to track you down and find out more about you. But if you create an email with a name that doesn’t immediately tie back to you, it’s not going to be of much use to anyone who gets it as a result of a data breach. Use that email for all of your online shopping and general website sign-ins, so those hackers reach an information dead-end.
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>> Create strong passwords
Many of us are probably guilty of using the same password (or a few variations of it) for multiple online accounts. This is like hitting the jackpot for online thieves, so it’s important to create unique passwords that contain a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols. Many browsers also suggest strong passwords to use for each new site you sign up to, and they also provide a password manager to help you keep track of them.
>> Utilise layers of protection
Use antivirus software for all of your online gadgets so you have an additional layer of protection. Antivirus software can enhance your online safety and immediately warn you of questionable links and suspicious downloads, and alert you if your device has acquired a virus.
A stolen identity could land you in big trouble and significantly impact your finances. Recovering from identity theft, or protecting yourself from it can be time-consuming and costly, but in times of financial difficulty, we’re here to help. Check out our cash loans up to $5,000 to find out how quick and easy it is to get your hands on some extra funds. Once a loan is approved, the cash is generally in your bank account within a few hours - so you can quickly implement some online security measures in next to no time!