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What is identity theft in cyber security?

What is identity theft in cyber security?

Portia Linao Portia Linao
Updated on July 1, 2024, Post a comment

Before the internet was born, identity theft was already a thing. The internet only made it more accessible to criminals. As the internet progresses, identity theft-related cybercrimes are growing with it as well and increased the number of victims to an astronomical level. Managed cyber security service providers are crucial in helping mitigate the risks associated with identity theft. They will help you stay ahead of potential threats and protect your valuable assets from falling into the wrong hands.

On a business scale, identity theft is a damaging cybercrime, especially if they steal the identity of a decision-maker (CEO, Director, etc.). 

Gear up with all the necessary information to fight against identity thieves. This article will provide real-life tips and tricks to spot and fight identity theft effectively.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without permission to commit fraud or other crimes. Many have fallen victim to identity theft and had their information, such as name, address, tax file number, and banking information to make unauthorised transactions.

Once criminals have your information, you may suffer devastating consequences, from ruined credit scores to various legal troubles for crimes committed under your name. One way to prevent that is to be well acquainted with the dangers of identity theft and how to avoid sharing personal information online and protect yourself.

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How cybercriminals steal identities.

Social engineering

Social engineering is one of the most dangerous and widely used scamming tactics. Social engineering is the most effective tactic to steal identities because it's hard to notice that the one calling or emailing you (typically posing as a legitimate business or government agency) is trying to manipulate you to share your sensitive information.

What’s worse is social engineering can come in many forms, including phishing and smishing. Phishing scams involve sending emails that appear legitimate but are designed to trick users into providing their personal information or clicking on a malicious link. Smishing also operates the same way but in text messages disguised as a reputable company to obtain user information.


Malware, short for malicious software, is designed to harm or exploit computer systems. Depending on the design, malware can do various damage to your device. But most of the time, it’s programmed to gather personal information such as login credentials, credit card numbers, and tax file numbers.

The most common way malware can get into your computer is through email attachments, infected websites, social media apps, and even text messages. And it only takes a few clicks for the malware to make your device its new home and steal your confidential information.

Oversharing on social media

The more you overshare on social media, the more vulnerable you are to identity thefts. This vulnerability provides hackers with valuable data that they can use to create fake identities or commit financial fraud.

Frequent location updates can give cybercriminals access to valuable data such as where a person lives, works or banks. This information, combined with details like full legal names, date of birth, and tax file number, can be used to open fraudulent accounts or take out loans in another person's name. It’s essential to be mindful of what you post and share on social media platforms.

Social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (although have robust security features) can still be hacked in many other ways. These platforms are treasure troves for hackers looking for easy targets to trick them into unwittingly giving away their personal information.

How do you know your identity’s been stolen

There are various signs of identity theft you can look into. Remember that you may have one or more of these signs, and it's always best to prepare for the worst-case scenario. And those can be:

  • You start receiving bills and financial statements from accounts and creditors you never knew about.
  • Your bills and financial statements arrive late/don’t arrive at all.
  • You start receiving new account confirmations from banks or businesses you’ve never heard of.
  • You receive charges on your banking/credit accounts that you didn’t make.
  • You receive cancellation notifications from your utility or service companies.
  • Your credit score gets damaged out of nowhere.
  • You get accused of failed income tax reports for companies you never worked for.

Types of identity theft

Criminals can use your identity in various ways. Here are some of the most common identity thefts and what criminals can do to your data.

Identity cloning

Identity cloning occurs when a criminal steals someone’s personal information and creates a new identity using that information. After successfully stealing another person’s private information, criminals can open credit accounts, apply for loans, and commit crimes under the victim’s name without anyone suspecting foul play until it's too late.

This type of identity theft is damaging because victims often suffer long-term damage to their reputations and finances even if they have hard-proof evidence of their innocence.

Tax identity theft

Tax identity theft is a type of fraud wherein someone steals your personal information to file a fraudulent tax return and collect a refund. This identity theft can happen if a criminal obtains your name, address, birth date, and tax fuke number through phishing scams or data breaches. The thief then uses this information to prepare and submit a tax return early in the filing season before you can file your legitimate return.

Financial identity theft

Financial identity theft occurs when someone steals your personal and financial information to access your accounts, steal your money or spend your credit limit. This identity theft can include stealing credit card or bank account numbers, taking out loans under your name, or opening new financial accounts with your personal information.

Social media impersonation

Social media impersonation occurs when someone takes a fake account on a social media platform, pretending to be another person. This type of identity theft can trick your online connections to the point of extortion and threats.

Senior Identity Theft

Senior citizens are a favourite target of criminals. They steal their personal information, such as their tax file number or credit card information. One reason criminals target senior citizens is they can access ample financial resources and are less likely to notice unauthorised charges or withdrawals from their accounts.

How to prevent identity theft

Only connect to secure networks

If you need to access confidential work files outside the office, ensure your connection is secure so identity thieves can’t poke around your network. We recommend you use your home network or personal cellular data and avoid public Wi-Fi networks altogether. If you had to use a public Wi-Fi network, we strongly suggest using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt any communications so criminals can’t monitor your activities.

Keep your devices secure

When it comes to preserving the security integrity of your identity, implement a reliable security solution. For example, you need to ensure to install anti-virus software to detect and remove any viruses or malware that may be present on your device and maintain operating systems and applications to their latest updates.

Follow good password protocols

Strong passwords are your first line of defence against unauthorised data access. And using strong passwords keeps you one step ahead of identity thieves. So ensure that your passwords are unique (to every online account you have) and have at least ten characters. On top of that, make sure you’ve enabled multi-factor authentication to strengthen your security and prevent anyone from accessing your accounts without permission, even if they have your password.

Never overshare online

Some people (especially those new to social media) tend to overshare things about their lives online. Although it is generally okay, this can be a big problem if the wrong people see your social media accounts and use your sensitive information to impersonate you. Avoid posting photos of your purchase orders (especially with your full address and banking information), ID, flight tickets, and legal documents because any personal details exposed are liable for exploitation.

Monitor your banking accounts

It’s essential to check on your online banking account(s) and credit scores to keep track of any monkey business. Doing this helps you confirm whether your financial information reflects the numbers it should be showing.

Be mindful of your sensitive information

Outdated documents still contain your sensitive information. So before you throw them out, shred or cover them with a black marker. The same goes for electronic devices. Wipe out your data before you surrender your device to another person.

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How to report identity theft

If you think you are a victim of identity, you have to take action fast to mitigate any damages that come your way. Here are some things you can do:

Report the fraud ASAP

First, you need to report the fraud to the police. Contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. Make sure to provide any evidence, such as printed copies of fraudulent transactions or suspicious emails or phone calls you received from companies you’ve never heard of.

Change your passwords

Changing your passwords is an essential step in mitigating identity theft damages. This step includes passwords for all financial accounts (banking and credit cards) and online accounts (emails and social media). Changing your passwords as soon as possible will help prevent further unauthorised access to your personal information.

When you’re updating your passwords, create strong and unique passwords. Use a random set of numbers, letters, and special characters.

Contact your bank

Contact your bank immediately if you see fraudulent activities or stolen money from your banking and credit accounts. Doing this can help you monitor or confirm any suspicious activity and freeze your accounts if necessary.

Request a copy of your credit report

Request a copy of your credit report to have an overview of all the accounts listed under your name so you can check for any suspicious activity. If you see any unauthorised charges or accounts listed on your report, immediately contact the lender/company to report the fraud.

Freeze your credit

A credit freeze locks down your credit report to prevent anyone from accessing it without your permission. So if someone tries to apply for credit using your name or tax file number, they will be denied because lenders won’t be able to access your credit report. If you suspect you’re a victim of identity theft, we recommend you call your credit bureaus. 

To know more about identity theft and what you can do to protect yourself and your business, check out this comprehensive guide by the Australian Cyber Security Centre.


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