How to prevent online identity theft

Currently there are countless advantages for Internet users: we can shop while sitting in front of our computer, make a bank transfer without having to go to the bank, carry out various Government administrative activities, etc. We can do all of these things and with the exact same outcome as when we were doing it in person while saving a considerable amount of time and with important cost reductions.
However, a large number of internet users when faced with the statistics regarding identity theft often find themselves asking: Is it really secure to carry out these transactions online?
Personally and professionally, I think that every day the Internet is more secure and more reliable when it comes to managing our data and information. However, we must still take into account and follow certain guidelines and recommendations that will help reduce potential risks, such as: use strong passwords, do not provide our personal data to strangers by email or phone to avoid phishing, do not publish our personal information in open social networks, purchase only from sites that carry a trusted store seal, make sure that the navigation bar of the Web address begins with “https”, etc.
Also, we must be aware that the actions related to identity theft online are constantly increasing; which, unfortunately, are more common than we realize and are the reason we must utilize all the necessary tools available to prevent overexposure which enables criminals to steal our identity.
It is a reality that theft has existed since the beginning of time; and now, in the digital age, can be found online as well. Just as we may be possible victims of a robbery, we are also vulnerable and exposed to become possible victims of theft online.
Although many times our digital identity can be attacked by inexperienced hackers whose aim is basically child’s play; actions that at first glance do not fit the profile of a criminal. However, we must bear in mind that the majority of the incidents are the work of cybercriminals whose goal is to obtain our data and use it for their own economic gain and that could have damaging consequences.
We have all heard about phishing and know that it is a deceitful method used to obtain personal information via phone or email. In addition, we are beginning to see other fraudulent practices such as Hoax, which functions by sending the victim a fake email with a supposed philanthropic message which urges the victim to spread the message by forwarding the mail or publishing in social media and forums in order to contribute to their apparent noble cause. Leaving the victim unaware that their true objective was that of obtaining email addresses for email scams or spam.
The use of social media and our digital identity are concepts that go hand-in-hand. Most of us are present and participate in social media. This, if well managed, can help us to build a positive and solid reputation online; it can even help to build our own personal brand. But we must bear in mind that this can be a double-edged sword since it implies publically displaying our personal information, so that when we choose profile settings we must limit public access and know everyone that we add into our online circle. We must also be cautious when joining groups or events in social media because we do not know who can access our data and this, without a doubt, is dangerous.
Although at the moment there are numerous efforts by different types of entities and organizations, both public and private, to eradicate the stigma that tarnishes the digital world; there is still a long way to go. The best contribution we can make towards a more secure network, beyond security systems, is our sensitivity and awareness of the risks found on the internet and by setting standards that protect us against any possible criminal action as users of the Internet.
Likewise, as users of the Internet, we must check and request, when necessary, maximum security guarantees for our transactions and communications.
And, of course, if we have evidence of any possible illegal practice on the internet or if we have been victims, it is very important that we report it to the authorities who have special divisions in cybercrime; such as the Guardia Civil or the Spanish National Police in Spain.

Ana Belén Sánchez Tébar

Head of Marketing and Communication of REALSEC

Source: Union de Guardia Civil magazine

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