Hurray, it’s the Digital Age! You can make friends, buy items, transact business, and connect with happenings from literally any part of the world with a simple tap on one of your most treasured possessions – your mobile phone!

However, such convenience and ease of access can come at a cost, in a bid to connect with our global village, your personal information (tons of it) could be strewn all over the digital cosmos. Apart from the immediately apparent issue of reduced privacy, having such a wealth of your personal information in cyberspace can make you a target of identity theft and other cybercrimes.

Identity theft (also known as identity fraud) refers simply to the deliberate misappropriation of someone else’s personal information such as name, physical address, bank details, credit card or debit card details, etc. for financial gains and for perpetuating other criminal acts.

With internet penetration metrics indicating astronomical yearly growth and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) being woven into virtually every fabric of our everyday lives, the digital age, despite all its perks, represents a truly golden age for fraudsters and identity thieves. There’s newfound ease to how these unscrupulous entities gather sensitive personal information for their nefarious activities- they could either work with what is already available in cyberspace (which is a lot) or con unsuspecting individuals into digitally providing them with what they need.

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Although you might know the best answer to popular question "what is digital identity verification" and why businesses value customer identities today. it is important that you make conscious efforts to protect yourself. Game recognizes game, right? 

It takes being witty to outsmart the cunning. There are smart, simple ways to avoid being a victim of identity theft and internet fraud. We’ll go into them as follows:

1. Don’t Share

It sounds obvious but it’s worth repeating- be careful of what you post on social media and NEVER post sensitive personal information. Furthermore, refrain from sharing your PINs or passwords with anyone as this increases your exposure to fraud.

2. Beware of Phishing emails and Scam Phone Calls and Text Messages

The term “phishing” is simply a fancy, techy alteration of the word “fishing”. It is a term that describes attempting to fraudulently acquire sensitive information by fronting as a trustworthy person or organization (mostly financial institutions) through a bait– an apparently official electronic communication.

Always double-check the domain name of the sender of any official-looking email to ensure it is really from the right source, and as a strict rule, never disclose sensitive information like your Bank Verification Number (BVN), internet banking passwords, ATM Card details, etc. to anyone over electronic media. Your banks already have all your sensitive financial information stored on their database and do not need to ask you for them over electronic media.

3. Use Strong Passwords

Hacked passwords continue to constitute a huge percentage of incidences of data theft. Therefore, when it comes to creating passwords, it’s better to choose complex rather than easy-to-remember. Avoid using easy to guess information like your name, nicknames, birth details, pet’s name, etc. as your passwords, instead use a concoction of lower case and upper case letters, numbers and special symbols, and also ensure that your passwords contain more than 8 characters. Furthermore, use different passwords for your various online accounts and try to change them frequently. Lastly, store all your passwords in a secure place.

4. Password your wireless internet connection

If you’re using a wireless internet connection, ensure that no one can effortlessly have access to it by making sure you set up a password for it. Identity thieves can eavesdrop on your connection and have access to your personal online activities, enabling them to potentially gather all kinds of sensitive personal information including your passwords and PINs. In the same vein, connecting to an unsecured free Wi-Fi network can be a huge security risk.

5. Download Safely

We all download files from the internet from time to time. Identity thieves know this and often try to covertly trick targets into downloading files with which they can spy on them (often called spyware) and steal valuable information from their computers. As a rule of thumb, only download files from websites that you trust. Websites of major organisations like government agencies, banks, and insurance companies can generally be trusted. On other sites, however, you can watch out for the following before downloading anything from the page:

  • Double-check the web address to verify that the website is authentic and it has the correct domain name.
  • Check if the website uses a secure connection. Look out for httpsin the web address or the image of a padlock.

If you still have doubts about whether a site is safe, it’s better to trust your guts and not download anything from it.

6. Dispose Properly

Do not dispose of receipts or other financial documents carelessly. When it comes to disposing of such documents, there’s only one way to go- shred them!

7. Check Your Financial Statements Regularly

Closely monitoring the reports of all your financial transactions is an effective way to protect yourself from identity theft. Most victims of identity theft only find out that they are victims after about 3 months. Regularly check your bank statements and report any irregularities immediately.

8. Safeguard your Physical ID documents

There’s no doubt that you regularly use physical IDs like your driver’s license, birth certificate, national identity card, passport, etc. Having any of these documents fall into the wrong hands can have devastating consequences. Here are some tips for safeguarding these documents

  • Store all your Physical IDs in a safe place
  • Only carry the ID you need, when you need them.
  • When you make copies of your IDs, never leave them lying around

Using a secure digital wallet that helps you store all your important ID information in an encrypted format can help you safeguard this sensitive information. Firstly, you don’t need to physically carry these IDs around, and secondly, you can securely grant access to them whenever they’re needed. Read more for your journey to product discovery for your business and personal use.

On the flip side, business owners should opt for identity verification as a service to secure themselves from fraudulent customers.

Click here to find out about our digital ID information solution.

Being a victim of identity theft and fraud can have serious financial and psychological consequences. However, with this guide, you’re sure to beat identity thieves and internet fraudsters at every turn.