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Online Criminals Profiting from Your Personal Data

Online Criminals Profiting from Your Personal Data

If you have ever been a victim of identity theft you might be wondering how someone could have gained access to your email, bank accounts, date of birth, or social media profiles. There are endless ways to do it, and online criminals know them all. According to Wymoo International private investigators, online criminals have been working for a long time in methods to obtain massive amounts of personal information that can later be used for a profit. Their motivation is simple: the revenue is large!

Identity theft costed U.S. consumers over $905 million in 2017 only. The figures are surprising, but they are not even close to what identity theft means on a global scale considering that a great part of the victims has not even realized their identity has been stolen.   This figure is also only the reported number, which is believed to be only the tip of the iceberg, as most victims don’t report.

Personal data and the tools to obtain it are at the criminals’ disposal. We currently face unprecedented levels of sophistication in complex identity fraud schemes, and this situation is leaving record numbers of victims.  Each year that passes by has surpassed the record of victims and losses of the previous year.  As the disease of identity fraud reaches the level of an epidemic, prevention is the only viable solution. Effective detection of fraud and scam will become more important than ever before.  Big government and corporations make matters worse by collecting, selling and sharing your personal data without your consent or control, making it easy for criminals (and government) to target you.

How do online criminals obtain personal sensitive data?

Hacking through conventional methods is a hard job since most internet providers, banks and companies are boosting their security. Good hackers aim for big databases with thousands or millions of names, addresses, social security numbers and many other personal identifiers. The databases are later sold in the black market for a lot of money. However, the chances of finding a vulnerability in a big database are few and limited, which is why most online criminals prefer easier ways to obtain the information.  Rather than targeting huge databases, some criminals target individuals.

Many of the identity theft cases originate from social media and online dating platforms. The fraudsters create fake accounts to get close to their victims, and will try to obtain personal data through simple conversations. When you sign up to receive services from banks, telecom companies and government agencies (among others), you need to authenticate your identity. Most of the time, the alternative to a password is to answer a simple question like what is your maiden name, the name of your pet or the street you grew up in. It is not hard for an online criminal to come up with this sort of information about you when you’re constantly posting pictures, tagging family, and making public your plans, interests, etc. It is even easier when people voluntarily give the information to a stranger they met online, just because they asked. You probably never thought that a dating background check investigation would help you stay safe from an identity thief, but it is one of the most important steps you can take! Knowing who you are communicating with is important to understand if you can trust them.

Shield yourself against identity theft

There is one part of this story you cannot control. Government agencies and other companies like hospitals store a lot of personal information about you, and there is no way you can delete or protect your information from these databases. However, you can control your own sharing of information. Avoid participating in retail databases, promotions and “VIP” customer lists, as these databases are hardly well protected and a massive hack will definitely affect you.

Another effective way to reduce risk is to share little or nothing online, including social media and dating profiles, and whatever else is tied to it. If you meet someone online, avoid providing personal data. Posting information on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere is not risk-free.  Romance scams cases are frequently tied to identity theft, blackmail, money laundering and other serious crimes. Hiring an online dating verification in early stages of a relationship can save you serious headache.

C. Wright
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