Identity theft is a growing concern in our modern world as more and more personal information is stored online and shared through technology. It is a crime where someone uses another person’s personal information, such as their name, Social Security number, or credit card information, without their permission to commit fraud or other crimes.
One common way identity theft happens is through phishing scams, where a criminal sends an email or message pretending to be a legitimate source, such as a bank or government agency, asking for sensitive information. The unsuspecting victim provides their information, which the criminal then uses for their own purposes.
Another way identity theft occurs is through data breaches, where a criminal gains access to a company’s database and steals personal information. This can happen through hacking or by employees who have access to sensitive information misusing it.
Identity theft can also occur through physical theft, such as stealing mail or wallets, which can contain personal information. Dumpster diving, where criminals search through trash to find sensitive information, is another physical way identity theft can happen.
Once a criminal has someone’s personal information, they can use it in a number of ways. They can open credit card accounts, take out loans, and make large purchases in the victim’s name. They can also use the information to apply for government benefits or commit tax fraud.
In Kenya the biggest Identity theft happens through Sim Swap. In this scam, the criminals will get hold of your phone number and ID. They then use this info to swap your simcard
Types of online scams you should be aware of and how to prevent them
Phishing Scams: Phishing scams are one of the most common ways that identity theft occurs. Criminals send emails or messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a bank or government agency, asking for sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers. To prevent falling victim to phishing scams, it’s important to be cautious of emails or messages that ask for personal information, even if they appear to be from a trusted source.
Here are some steps to prevent phishing scams:
- Don’t click on links in emails or messages from unknown or untrustworthy sources. Ensure you understand each link in your email and where it came from. If you are not sure always send it to spam mail
- Don’t provide personal information through email or messaging apps. Look out for people calling you pretending to be customer care for Safaricom and banks. Most banks will not ask you for any of your password or personal information. Each of the financial institution has a dedicated line for their customers. Any call from another number other than the official customer care is a phishing expedition that you should not partake in.
- Verify the authenticity of the email or message by contacting the sender through a separate means, such as a phone call or official website.
- Use anti-virus software and keep it up-to-date to protect against malicious software that can be used to steal personal information. Beware of malicious software especially one downloaded from pirate sites. They might have malicious code for phishing through your computer and see if they can find any personal information they can use to scam you. This might be a txt file on your desktop with your banking details or the password you save in your browser when you are shopping online. Always check where you get your software and the reputation of the site before using it.
Data Breaches: Data breaches can occur when a company’s database is hacked, or when an employee with access to sensitive information misuses it. To prevent the loss of personal information in a data breach, it’s important to be aware of the security measures that companies have in place to protect your information.
Here are some steps to prevent data breaches:
- Use strong passwords and change them regularly. Be aware of the password you have saved in your browser. A data breach on the password saver will be catastrophic. This is why you should change them regularly to ensure that any data breach wont necessary affect your whole ecosystem online
- Keep your software up-to-date. Software updates are meant to fix vulnerability that were caught on the previous release. Thus once an exploit on a software has been know it can be used for malicious intent. This is why it is advisable to always update your software to the latest version.
- Be mindful of who has access to your personal information. Most of the scams online involves somebody you know who stole your information without your knowledge. They then go ahead and use that information to scam you. This sis how most of the info used for Sim swap is gathered
- Regularly monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity. This is especially important if you have a bank account. Some bank have insiders working with scammers to grift you your money. Be very vigilant and if you bank has a lot of scamming cases, you should consider moving to another secure financial institution
- Limit the amount of personal information that you share online.
Physical Theft: Physical theft, such as stealing mail or wallets, can also lead to identity theft. To prevent physical theft, it’s important to be mindful of your personal belongings and take steps to protect them.
Here are some steps to prevent physical theft:
- Keep your mail secure by using a locked mailbox.
- Keep your personal belongings, such as wallets and purses, secure and out of sight.
- Shred any documents that contain sensitive information before disposing of them.
In conclusion, identity theft can happen in many ways, but by being vigilant and taking steps to protect your personal information, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim. Regularly monitoring your financial accounts, using strong passwords, and being mindful of who has access to your personal information can go a long way in preventing identity theft.