Staying One Step Ahead: How to Safeguard Your Digital Identity on the Internet

April 6, 2024 | Blog
woman browsing computer, safety first message.

Digital identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes committed within the United States, and there is no bias as to who is most at risk. However, according to some reliable statistics, identity theft targets are most commonly high-income earners, older adults, and mega social media users. 

With such a deep pool of possible targets, it’s easy for one to fall victim to this crime. This is why learning how to safeguard your digital identity on the internet should be your top priority. In this blog, the team at My Computer Works has discussed digital identity theft risks, strategies to use to protect yourself, the personal information thieves steal, and the sites you should avoid. 

Why Is Online Safety Important In Today’s Digital World? 

Online safety has never been more important than in the modern world. Criminals have evolved in this digital age to exploit any weaknesses found in computer systems and online platforms, and many people are vulnerable to the crimes these criminals commit, like digital identity theft. 

This makes cyber security protection essential, as with this revolutionary evolution also comes a rise in unique and new criminal activity. From private data to banking, all activities conducted by the average person are conducted online, and with this, data breaches, phishing attacks, and cyber threats are becoming frequent problems, especially when they involve identity theft. 

Fortunately, these issues can be prevented by utilizing cybersecurity strategies and following IT professionals’ recommended essential practices for staying on top of ever-evolving digital crime.

What Are A Few Of The Prevalent Online Risks To Your Digital Identity? 

To know why it’s essential to protect your online information, you must stay up to date with the types of attacks and how you can identify them. Below are six of the most prevalent online threats to your digital data and digital identity:

  1. Malware: This software is crafted to compromise your digital information by accessing private systems and gathering any sensitive information you may have. It often disrupts your computer operations systems and can affect any computer in many other ways.
  2. Social engineering tactics: These are highly deceptive means of getting victims to divulge any confidential information that may compromise their security. Often, they involve exploiting their target’s trust. Tailgating and baiting can fall under these tactics.
  3. Phishing emails: These emails are designed to trick the victim into believing they are from an authority figure, such as a bank or government agency. They prompt you with a false error or prompt you to log into your account through their link. An example would be a prompt like, “You have been locked out of your account. Please log in with your password now using the provided link.”
  4. Voice vishing: This method specifically utilizes phone calls and usually entails an individual claiming to be from a reputable business to gain your personal information over the phone. An example would be, “Hi, mam/sir, this is Rick from XY Company, and we are contacting you about X. For security, please provide the following information – full name, identity number, etc.”
  5. SMS phishing: With this method, a criminal sends text messages that can claim they are from legitimate businesses. These messages will always suspiciously ask you to provide personal information through the message thread and not call the line they contact you from.
  6. Password attacks: These attacks are hard to detect and prevent, which makes them easier for a criminal to execute. They are generally caused when victims use easy passwords or the same password on multiple sites.phishing email alert on mobile device

What Are A Few Strategies To Use To Secure Devices And Your Identity Against Online Risks? 

While it may seem overwhelming to consider the number of ways your online safety can be compromised and your digital identity stolen, you can employ a few good strategies to prevent cyber attacks and identity theft. They include the following:

  • Utilize strong passwords: Ensure you create a unique password for every account you create. The password must be complex and contain numbers, special characters, and letters. 
  • Two-factor authentication: If it is offered, enable it to ensure you have an extra layer of security, as it usually requires a unique verification code for you to type in to access your account.
  • Be cautious with attachments and links: Think twice before downloading attachments from unknown sources and suspicious links, as they may contain malware infections.
  • Utilize a VPN: A VPN masks your computer’s IP address and encrypts your internet traffic. This prevents hackers from using public Wi-Fi networks to access your device.
  • Physical device security: To keep your device secure, use biometric authentication and locks. Do not leave your device unattended in a public space.
  • Buck up data regularly: Ensure that any important files are backed up in encrypted backups to prevent ransomware attacks and data loss.
  • Employ safe browsing habits: Utilize browser extensions or plugins to block trackers and malicious content while visiting websites.
  • Be vigilant and monitor for suspicious activity: You should review your account statements and credit reports to ensure no unauthorized activity is being actioned.

Tips & Tricks To Use To Recognize And Avoid Common Social Engineering Tactics Aimed At Identity Theft

To protect your digital identity, you must be aware that social engineering is a form of hacking in which the criminal interacts with the victim to access their private information. 

Usually, the criminal will use emails, texts, phone calls, and even social media to trick victims into giving up passwords, money, or accounts. To prevent this from happening, here are a few steps you can take:

  • Be vigilant: Caution should always be practiced when receiving unsolicited messages, calls, or emails.
  • Identity verification: Be sure to confirm the business or individual’s identity before providing them with any personal information.
  • Stay updated and educated: Keep updated and knowledgeable on the latest and most common engineering tactics to flag them more easily.
  • Limit sharing information: Be cautious about what personal information you fill in online or on your phone.
  • Security software: Ensure you have reliable antivirus and anti-malware software. Install them with the latest versions to keep them updated and protected against phishing attacks.
  • Caution on urgency: Criminals who use social engineering often use a matter of urgency to place their victims under pressure and force them to act quickly, so be wary of this tactic.
  • Verification on URLs: Verify your links, especially when provided in emails or messages. You can easily do this by utilizing Google’s URL checker.
  • Trust your gut: If something seems too good to be true or off, it most likely is. Rather be safe than sorry.
  • Report suspicious activity: Speak with an IT professional like the ones at My Computer Works so that they can help you employ security measures and/or an investigation to protect your identity.

What Personal Information Do Cybercriminals Frequently Target?

Your data to scammers and hackers is more of a valuable asset than what you believe. Each time we share our information online, we open ourselves up to vicious attacks, theft, and cyber crimes. 

Unfortunately, cybercriminals look for specific personal information to use to their advantage. In total, there are about nine different types of data that cybercriminals steal:

  • PII (Personally identifiable information): They will target details directly identifying the victim, such as a physical address, full name, social security number, and email address. 
  • Financial data: This refers to credit card details or bank account information.
  • Insurance or healthcare information: This information refers to any medical records or insurance policies that may be used for medical identity theft.
  • Passwords and usernames: They will target getting your login credentials to gain unauthorized entry into your accounts.
  • Work information and logins: The criminals will target getting employee credentials or corporate data, especially if you work for a high-profile company.
  • Bank card numbers: Whether they are debit or credit card numbers, scammers will quickly make purchases and withdrawals if they gain this data.
  • Social media profiles: Hackers may take over your profiles to access information linked to your financial accounts.
  • Personal communications: If able to intercept, the criminals may use your email or messages to exploit your connections or you.

What Are The Most Common Sites Identity Thieves Target?

Some of the most common sites that identity thieves target can store sensitive and personal information. Some examples of these websites are:

  • Financial institutions: This encompasses banks, investment firms, and credit card companies, as these sites will store information such as transaction history and account numbers.
  • Online retailers: This covers e-commerce platforms that store information such as addresses, payment details, and purchase history.
  • Social media platforms: These platforms have profiles that contain a plethora of personal information that hackers can use. This includes birthdates, connections, full names, etc.
  • Healthcare providers: The medical records on healthcare provider sites are huge targets as they contain personal and financial data.

Due to how much information they hold, these sites become the core targets for identity theft criminals. Thus, you need to take precautionary steps to keep your personal information safe wherever possible.

Wrap-Up On Safeguarding Your Digital Identity On The Internet

If you have yet to begin safeguarding your digital identity online, we recommend you start as soon as possible. By taking preventative online safety measures, you can avoid becoming an unfortunate victim of identity theft or hacking. The team at My Computer Works is ready to assist you with any needs or questions you may have about safeguarding yourself online. Contact us here, and we will help you protect your digital identity. 

Back to Tips & Tricks >

Let’s Talk About Your Technology

With support solutions for the home and office, My Computer Works is here to help you get back to your life.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Get Help With All Your Technology Needs

Home or office solutions—My Computer Works is here to help you get back to your life.

Subscribe Now