Living through a pandemic is difficult, but things are made worse by cyber thieves who prey on peoples’ online identities then use that data to make or steal money off of unsuspecting people.
Identity theft statistics and studies continue to show a growing concern about personal information breaches. Experian reported a 33% increase in identity theft cases throughout the pandemic. There are even more troubling reports showing identity thieves are adapting their methods to pilfer data from remote workers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting increase in people working from home may be a factor in the decrease in breaches as employees have less access to personally identifiable information,” the Identity Theft Resource Center stated. This means that within workplaces, company and employee data might be protected, but individually, the risks are higher than ever.
Online Identity Theft After COVID-19
Online identity theft occurs when someone tries to trick a computer user in order to steal the user’s data. Information like home addresses, passwords and other personal data can be sold on the black market. That data can be used to take out loans or make credit card purchases, or to commit other acts of fraud. These can devastate victims’ lives. Personal data theft has been happening for generations, but in the digital era it’s becoming more common and frequent. With more people working from home and shopping online during the threat of COVID-19, identity thieves have more opportunities to succeed.
The estimated financial blow to the global economy from identity theft just caused by cybercrime is around $445 billion a year. While businesses are often targeted, identity theft statistics show most people do little or nothing to protect themselves from being attacked.
Even though methods used to draw people into cybertheft situations have evolved since COVID-19, old methods like fake lottery winning emails and other scams are still in play. Many attacks arrive cloaked in a friendly reminder, delivery notice or fake bill asking the receiver to submit details to a dubious website that uses personal data to commit fraud.
Sadly, thieves are more than happy to use the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to steal from people, even those who are most in need.
Scammers try to build trust quickly before victimizing willing participants. Even with more government packages designed to help prevent ID theft, the increasing amount of personal transactions done online gives cyber thieves more opportunities to breakthrough. They use the following techniques:
Pretend to have information or access to fake vaccines, or pose as health agencies that can provide vaccines
Pose as a loan or government stimulus payment then ask for bank account details
Pose as fake charities asking money donations and membership information
As more people access the internet for personal and business reasons, the opportunities for scammers continue to grow exponentially.
Preventing Identity Theft
There are many ways to protect against identity theft, including:
Change passwords regularly
Check bank account and credit card transaction reports regularly
Make first contact with businesses, banks and government services on their official sites and not via emails
Don’t put personal details on social media
There are services designed to monitor and strengthen personal data security. Identity monitoring services keep a digital eye on how an individual’s ID is used. They even monitor the dark web and black markets to see if an individual’s ID is for sale.
As businesses and organizations strengthen their resistance against ransomware and other cyber threats, the rise of online identity theft during COVID-19 should be a wakeup call for everyone transacting online. More than ever, individuals need to take measures to protect their digital identity and information shared online.
David Lukić is an information privacy, security and compliance consultant at idstrong.com.
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