Online Identity Theft

From tanking your credit score to taking your tax returns, Americans are growing increasingly familiar with the negative effects of identity theft. Sadly, that growth in awareness is likely due in large part to the huge impact has on Americans. According to FBI crime statistics, an average of 280,000 individuals register identity theft-related complaints each year, with $1.3 billion in losses reported in 2016. Spyware, malware used for surreptitiously gathering user data, and its variants like adware and keyloggers, are some of the most common tools used by cybercriminals to execute online identity theft.

How Malicious Hackers Use Spyware to Steal Your Identity  

They entice you with an offer.

Even normal browsing activities like clicking on an enticing ad or filling out a form for downloadable content can lead to online identity theft when users don't know what to look for. Keyloggers can be overlaid on seemingly legitimate banking or investment apps and intrusive tracking procedures can be signed off on by users who fail to read terms and conditions notices carefully. 

You can encounter spyware and other forms of malware in many ways, including:

  • Downloading files or software

  • Opening email attachments or clicking on pop-ups

  • Visiting devious websites

They use spyware to record and collect your personal information.

Without your knowledge, spyware runs in the background while it records your Internet browsing habits and keystrokes, monitors the programs you use and collects your personal information, which can lead to credit card fraud and online identity theft.

Spyware transmits your sensitive data, using your own internet connection.

While your computer is connected to the Internet, spyware quietly transmits your personal information to cybercriminals, which can include:

  • Credit card numbers

  • Bank account numbers

  • Social Security numbers

  • Usernames and passwords

  • Address books, including email addresses

Cybercriminals use your information for illicit or illegal activities.

Once your personal information is received by the hacker who placed spyware on your computer, they can now:

  • Steal money and open credit card and bank accounts in your name

  • Sell it to other parties who will use it for illicit or illegal purposes

  • Pummel your PC with pop-ups, spam and unwanted messages as well as direct you to websites you never intended to visit

How to Prevent Identity Theft

Spyware used for online identity theft can be the most harmful and difficult to remove of any type of malware. Here are a few things that can help you improve your level of online identity theft security:

  • Continually check the accuracy of personal accounts and deal with any discrepancies immediately

  • Avoid questionable websites

  • Practice safe email protocol:

    • Don't open messages from unknown senders

    • Immediately delete messages you suspect to be spam

  • Only download software from sites you trust. Carefully evaluate free software and file-sharing applications before downloading them.

  • Get the latest Windows® patches

  • Use public computers with extreme caution

  • Use antivirus protection and a firewall

The best identity theft protection begins by avoiding spyware infection in the first place. Virus protection products guard against spyware entering your computer and prevent it from exposing your personal data and slowing your computer through damage to your files and programs. A good antispyware program searches every place on your PC where spyware can hide and removes every trace to boost your PC performance and keep you safe from intrusion. While free antispyware downloads are available, they just can’t keep up with the continuous onslaught of new spyware strains. Previously undetected forms of spyware can often do the most damage to your computer, so it’s critical to have up-to-the-minute online identity theft protection.

Find the right cybersecurity solution for you.