How to protect your online identity and prevent identity theft

Singaporeans are becoming increasingly technologically savvy, and the adoption rate of technology will continue to advance as Singapore transitions into a Smart Nation. Many of us now prefer completing a wide range of everyday tasks on smart devices, for example, like paying for utility bills or making purchases online. While the majority of these payment processes are now seamless and much safer than before, the risk of identity fraud remains; extra effort should therefore be made to safeguard your identity on the internet.

Identity theft is a serious crime that occurs when someone wrongfully obtains and uses another individual’s personal data fraudulently. In many cases, victim’s losses may include not only out-of-pocket financial losses (such as credit card charges run-up in the victim’s account) but also additional financial costs associated with correcting erroneous information or actions for which the criminal is responsible.

Distressing forms of identity theft tend to result when someone swipes not just your card, but also your entire financial persona. With enough personal verification information about an individual, a criminal can take over that individual’s identity to conduct a wide range of crimes such as false applications for loans & credit cards, fraudulent withdrawals from bank accounts or obtaining other goods or privileges which the criminals might be denied if they were to use their real name.

Recent reports in the media show that the total number of reported crimes went up by 11.6 percent to 18,121 cases in the first half of 2020, compared to 16,240 cases reported in the same period in 2019.

In a news release on Wednesday (Aug 26)[i], the Singapore Police Force (SPF) mentioned that the increase was primarily due to the rise in scam cases, with online scams seeing a significant increase as Singaporeans stayed home and carried out more online transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prevention tips to safeguard against identity theft

Using secured devices

One of the most important ways to protect yourself from identity fraud is to exclusively use trusted and protected devices on websites or applications that handle your personal information or online transactions. Such websites include social media, online marketplaces and government agency websites.

To keep your devices secured, do not open suspicious websites, emails or downloads. It is also advisable to run scheduled virus protection scans regularly. By using trusted and protected devices, you can be sure that your device will not be compromised or be vulnerable to security phishing.

Complex Passphrases

In addition to using trusted and protected devices, security measures can be beefed up by using secured log-in details. Passphrases, instead of passwords, should be long, complex and unique.

By using a combination of lower-case letters, upper-case letters, special characters and numbers, you can generate a complex and secured passphrase. Avoid using the same passphrases on multiple websites or applications because doing so will increase your vulnerability.

Two-Factor Authentication

You should also enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 2FA is a layer of security in addition to your username and passphrase. Common 2FA methods today include an SMS verification code or a biometric verification. It is an excellent way of preventing hackers from accessing your personal data. By using secured log-in, you can greatly reduce your risk of identity fraud. Some apps and sites will also offer authenticator apps as an option.

Avoid sharing information carelessly

With innumerable advertisements, promotional giveaways and online campaigns ongoing today, it can be easy to give your personal information to others unknowingly. Be extra cautious when signing up with foreign platforms; you should be aware of their data protection policies and be discerning with the data you divulge.

Such caution should also be practised outside of the digital world too. As your personal information is used as a layer of verification for banks and financial institutions, it is best to not share carelessly—especially on social media.

Stay alert for signs of Identity theft, which can include:

  • Failing to receive bills or other mail. This could mean that an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks.
  • Receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for.
  • Being denied credit for no apparent reason.
  • Getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.

My Credit Monitoring

In spite of the many steps you can take to protect your identity in an online world, data breaches will still be inevitable.

If someone does apply for a loan under your identity, you will want to be notified immediately. With Credit Bureau Singapore’s My Credit Monitor (MCM), you will have a third-eye to monitor your credit report, look out for predetermined activities and notify you through SMS or email, thus providing the earliest possible indication of your identity being stolen.

MCM is a helpful step in fighting against identity theft by detecting any suspicious activities or changes that can affect your credit reputation. Credit Bureau Singapore will be offering a three-month subscription (inclusive of two free credit reports) at a discounted price of SG$10 for a limited time. You may sign up here if you’re interested!

 

This article was contributed by Credit Bureau Singapore. Do like Credit Bureau Singapore’s Facebook page to know more about credit reports, personal finance and how to maintain a good credit reputation!

 

[i]https://www.police.gov.sg/media-room/statistics

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