Online Identity Theft

What Is Online Identity Theft?

Know the online identity theft basics and how to help victims

Online identity theft occurs when a criminal uses another person's personal online information to take on that person's identity. Online ID theft is much more than misuse of a Social Security number - it can also include credit card and mail fraud.

Online ID Theft - Back To The Basics

Most people know that there is a problem with ID theft and that something must be done. People are learning more about what to do if they are an online identity theft victim. LexisNexis was hacked into because the hackers received passwords from legitimate users that allowed them to penetrate the system. Some banks have been hacked because the teller thought the person they spoke with on the phone really was from the bank's credit bureau.

New credit card account have been created because some some simply filled out a form that arrived in their mail box or obtained it from someone else's. Home computer users were easily broken into because they had no protective software or system that allowed ping hacking, e-mail hacking, viruses, and Spam hacking. There is a pattern here! We are still seeing this kind of ID theft and online ID theft because we have not protected our selves starting from the basics.

Preventing online ID theft is as simple as having a firewall, cleanup tool, antivirus, and a Spam blocker. These are all preventive methods that should be in a home user's "computer policy". No one can afford to be an online ID theft victim so prevention is the key. The biggest prevention tool people lack is a clean up utility. SecureClean is the best clean up utility to help prevent from online ID theft.

Online ID Theft Help - What To Do If You Are A Victim

If you think you may be a victim of online ID theft, contact the:

  • Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report what happened. You can:
    • Call the FTC's ID Theft Hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338)
    • Use the FTC's online ID Theft Complaint form
    • Contact the FTC for up-to-date information about how to work with credit bureaus and law enforcement agencies to reclaim your identity.
  • Social Security Administration (SSA) for:
    • A replacement card if your Social Security card was lost or stolen
    • A new Social Security number in certain circumstances
    • Help in correcting your earnings records
  • Office of the Inspector General to report Social Security number misuse that:
    • Involves buying or selling Social Security cards
    • May involve people with links to terrorist groups or activities

Online ID Theft Help - Businesses

As businesses move portions of their services online, they may become vulnerable to attacks associated with the new medium. Responsible online retailers have responded by providing concerted programs to educate customers about fraudulent activities on the Internet. As a fundamental part of this education, businesses should:

  • Inform customers exactly what information the company will, and will not, ask for on websites or via e-mail. If personal, financial or sensitive information must be exchanged, businesses must clearly indicate under what conditions that exchange will occur.
  • For example, a retailer will only ask for a credit card number when completing a sale on its properly secured site. The same retailer will never ask for a credit card number via e-mail. Businesses should make their customers aware of their business practices with respect to the exchange of potentially sensitive information several times a year.
  • Provide customers with information on inquiring about or reporting suspicious e-mails and websites.
  • Ensure that they are listed as the registrant and responsible entity for their corporate website, rather than the web designer.
  • Clearly advertise their valid website addresses on all corporate stationery, letterhead and advertising to ensure consumers are conscious of the proper corporate uniform resource locater (URL).
  • Protect customer security by registering variations of their corporate website domain URLs. For example, www.googel.com will still take users to the proper web address, www.google.com.

Online ID Theft Help - Consumers

Internet users exercise vigilance with online activity and perform due diligence on all parties involved in online transactions. As well, consumers should:

  • Install and frequently update a proven antivirus software product.
  • Ensure that browsers and operating systems (i.e. MS Windows) are up to date and that security patches are applied.
  • Be suspicious of any e-mails with requests for personal, financial or sensitive information. Reputable websites will not normally ask users to disclose this kind of information via e-mail.
  • Not fill out forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal, financial or sensitive information.
  • Use caution with links supplied in e-mails. Do not click on links in e-mails if you suspect that the message might not be authentic (i.e. if you don't recognize the sender or understand the subject or message).
  • Always verify they have the correct website address for sites that require users to authenticate by providing information such as a password. Users should change passwords regularly, use hard-to-guess passwords (e.g. using a combination of letters, numbers, and characters including both uppercase and lowercase format), and never share passwords with anyone.
  • Use caution when locating a site through an Internet search engine, since it is not always possible to distinguish a fake site from a legitimate one. Consider creating a bookmark or favorite entry for important websites to ensure the valid site is visited every time. As well, look for a company's privacy policy or a link to its privacy statement when visiting its website. Pay attention to what information the company gathers, how it's used, and with whom it's shared.
  • Always ensure that a secure website is used when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your web browser (this is usually displayed in the status bar).
  • Contact the organization via telephone if there is any doubt as to the veracity of an e-mail or website. Do not use the phone number provided by the suspicious e-mail or website.
  • Always report phishing e-mails to the organization first. Users can report incidents to local law enforcement agencies to officially open an investigation.