How can I protect myself from identity theft?

22 November

It’s very difficult to fully protect yourself. The short answer is never to go online!

Obviously there’s all the advice given about changing your passwords, not using the same one for every site and so on, but I think a lot of the websites have a responsibility as well. For example, I have an email account that by default leaves me logged in, which is anything but secure, and really frustrating. Mobile phones also leave us open to fraud, as does the increased use of contactless payments. I don’t think people who create the tech make it very easy for us to stay secure.

"Technology has a huge influence on crime in general."

This brings us onto issue of ID cards. A lot of people say that if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you shouldn’t be worried about them, but it’s yet more data stored somewhere that could be accessed for criminal use. Also, with NHS records going online, people’s medical information becomes vulnerable to being hacked. We give up so much information for the sake of convenience, but if it goes wrong then we could be in all sorts of trouble.

Is the danger of identity theft exaggerated? Far from it! We’re probably underestimating the scale of it if anything. There must be tens of thousands of individuals out there who don’t even know that other people have opened credit cards in their name.

A lot of corporations are reluctant to report such issues due to fear of reputational damage. Sometimes banks and websites aren’t as secure as they could be, but they don’t want to report fraudulent activity either, as they want to be seen as keeping our money and data secure.

Essentially, every technological development changes crime. Back when I was a student, our house was full of TVs, computers, CDs… all of which were worth something if they were stolen. Today, TVs are larger and harder to steal, music is digital, and our computer devices are smaller and tend to be kept about our person – so that kind of physical theft has reduced. Shops are also holding less money onsite, so there’s less incentive to rob them. Technology has a huge influence on crime in general.

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