In this post, our friends at the Identity Theft Resource Center share some information about an often overlooked form of identity theft, internet takeover.
There’s no doubt that identity theft is a particularly frightening crime. Reports that are compiled in the Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual Aftermath survey indicate that many victims experience fear, feelings of mistrust, and a sense of violation after learning that their identities have been stolen. Not knowing who is using your identity and what they are doing with your finances and your good name is hard enough, but when the crime involves internet takeover, those feelings of fear can be even more pronounced.
Internet takeover is an often overlooked form of identity theft, since it doesn’t necessarily have to involve your finances, your government benefits, or other typical targets. As its name suggests, it occurs when someone takes over any or all of your internet accounts and uses them without your permission. It could be as simple as someone sending an email or private message from your account, but can be as involved as someone locking you out of all of your accounts entirely.
Here are examples of victims who reached out to the ITRC for help. Names have been changed to protect the victims:
“My boyfriend’s mother pretended to be me to gain access to my Verizon account. She changed the account email, and then added her own purchases. I had no idea, since I’m on an auto payment plan and wasn’t receiving email notifications when the payments were taken out.” – Jennifer
“I found out yesterday that someone from Nigeria has been accessing my Facebook account to send emails to my friends and family, requesting money. Fortunately, no one responded to the requests and I have alerted all my contacts that this wasn’t me. I secured my social accounts, but then noticed that my prepaid debit card was compromised as well. I have no idea what other damage has been done.” – Hector
“I clicked on a link in an email that was from my friend. Turns out, it wasn’t actually from my friend and the hacker took over my email and gained remote access to my computer. From there, they were able to access all of my files and online accounts that I had saved passwords for in my browser. I had my computer fixed, but I have a sinking feeling that I’ll never know just how much the thief found out about me and my accounts.” – Michael
Internet takeover is very real, and too many victims have experienced some, if not all, of these incidents. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of becoming a victim:
- Protect your email – You probably don’t think twice about password protecting your online banking account, but too often, individuals leave their email accessible. Whether it’s leaving it open at work while you go to lunch or staying logged in on your smartphone, once someone can see your inbox, they can change all of your internet passwords, one by one. While in your inbox, they simply go to PayPal, Amazon, Visa, eBay, Facebook, and any other accounts they want to take over, and then click “Forgot my password.” Those websites send the link to your email for them to change the password, and they can now lock you out while using your accounts.
- Two-factor authentication – Sure, it might seem like a hassle to have to enter a code from a text message whenever you want to log into an account, but it’s another layer of protection. A hacker would have to have your physical phone in order to break into your accounts, even by clicking “Forgot my password.”
- Privacy settings – While a really skilled hacker can bypass a lot of security protocols, there’s no reason to make it easier for anyone to steal your info or gain access to your accounts. By keeping tight security settings on your accounts, you can hopefully divert a would-be hacker.
Remember, there’s no such thing as a “set it and forget it” approach to your online security. Monitor your accounts regularly, and update your passwords frequently, especially if you have reason to believe anyone has uncovered them.
This LifeLock UnLocked post is courtesy of our partners at the Identity Theft Resource Center.