Sharing Information that Can Be Used for Identity Theft
It can take shockingly little effort for an online identity thief to strike. For instance, if the answer to your online security questions involves information such as your relatives’ names or your educational background, a thief could easily find the answer online and use it to log into your accounts. Malware and viruses that make it onto your computer through emails, questionable downloads, or other means can record your every keystroke, revealing your most sensitive information to identity thieves. You can be victimized if you inadvertently respond to questionable emails requesting personal information or to enter your credit card number on a disreputable site (see tips on avoiding identity theft). Of course, you don’t personally need to make any safety mistakes to become a victim. While you scrupulously avoid scams, a hacker could get your information by targeting your bank, university, or the store where you have a credit card account.
What do thieves do with your information once they have it? Some information is sold online in huge lots for small sums of money. Thieves may empty your bank account, open credit card accounts, file fake tax returns, or take out loans in your name. Cleaning up the damage and recovering your losses can cost you thousands of dollars, as well as considerable time and aggravation. Damage to your credit history and your reputation may be nearly impossible to repair.