In the 2013 movie Identity Thief, Jason Bateman plays a man whose life is turned upside down when someone pretending to be him starts spending his money and ruining his reputation. He goes in search of the identity thief, played by Melissa McCarthy, and has to fight her quirky chaos to get his identity back. It’s a silly but fun buddy comedy that has the identity thief as a goofy loner and the victim as a neurotic guy and the result is crazy shenanigans rather than anything legal.
Similarly, in a classic episode of The Office, Jim dresses up as and mimics Dwight in his latest prank to which a stupefied Dwight angrily protests that “identity theft is not a joke, Jim, thousands of American suffer from it each year!” Obviously, this is isn’t identity theft and the whole thing is played as a big joke but, unfortunately, this is what most people think of when they hear the term “identity theft.” It sounds both drastic and a little bit exciting. And, generally, not particularly alarming. Someone is pretending to be you, after all. However, the reality is both not at all exciting and very common. Dwight was right. Hundreds of thousands of Americans fall victim to identity theft every year.
Identity theft, which is when someone claims your identity by using your ID number, social security number or bank account details, is relatively easy to carry out in 2024, because we do just about everything online. We put all of our data out there, including our very identities, every time we go online. Our IP address – which is sent out to every website we visit – alone contains exposing information, including our location.
How do you protect yourself against identity theft, then – especially when online? Guarding your identity in the non-virtual-space is mostly just a matter of being mindful of your most crucial documents and acting quickly if you find that your identity document or credit card have gone missing. When dealing with the internet, things can seem a whole lot more daunting but no more so than for your average non-expert in information technology. Here, then, are a few fairly simple but incredibly useful tips to keep your identity secure and your private details private.
Subscribe to a VPN
Your biggest shield against identity theft is a virtual private network (VPN). This is a piece of software that routes your connection through an external server, hiding your IP address and encrypting your data. It makes you anonymous to websites you visit, which only receive the IP address of the external server.
This keeps a shady website from stealing your information and is also a great form of protection even from hackers, who will also struggle to get past VPNs. They cannot trace the connection back to you and therefore cannot steal your data. This protects your very identity, and allows you to go about online life without constantly risking your most personal data. Do be sure to use a reputable VPN, though, because it’s crucial that the external server is not controlled by shady owners themselves. Fortunately, it’s very easy to find out what the best VPNs are simply by typing “VPN reviews” into Google.
A VPN doesn’t just protect you from private citizens, though, but also protects you against government surveillance. Governments have become increasingly blasé about the fact that they surveil their citizens, but this should not mean that you let your guard down too. There is always risk in surveillance, whether from a malicious regime or a hacker who gains access to their data but either way, a VPN is a great first line of defense.
A VPN will protect you against automatic tracking, but it should not be your only defense.
IdentityForce – Comprehensive Protection
To get full protection against identity theft, a service like IdentityForce is recommended. IdentityForce provides comprehensive identity protection, by monitoring public records and the so-called dark web, which is the part of the internet frequented mostly by illegal hackers and criminals. They search for any indications of fraud, whether through credit cards or payday loans, as well as changes to your basic information (such as your address) in public records.
You can click here to find out more about IdentityForce and what they offer. While a VPN offers an excellent form of passive protection from hackers or untrustworthy actors who could do anything from robbing you blind to totally demolishing your reputation to framing you for some fairly scary crimes, a program like IdentityForce is an active and thorough protection against identity theft. Carefully crafted by top coders, it specifically targets these particular threats and are therefore much more successful at catching identity thieves than more generalized security programs and VPNs.
With this much going for it, a subscription to IdentityForce understandably costs about double that of a good VPN, but provides the kind of security you wouldn’t think of leaving your home without. And while intruders can steal precious property by breaking into your home, they can do a lot worse with your very identity.
Identity theft should not be seen as something that rarely happens. It is frighteningly common and can cause a lot of financial and personal hardship. Extreme examples would include planting incriminating materials on your computer, creating a web of complex lies that can leave your reputation in tatters or framing you for a crime that you had nothing to do with. Mostly, though, identity thieves are “merely” interested in material gain and with access to your bank accounts, stock market portfolios or family trusts, they can still cause some real damage that can take months to reverse.
With this in mind, it’s crucial to get protection from identity theft as soon as you possibly can. In our online age, it has become easier than ever for identity theft to happen and you never know whom hackers might target next. Don’t let it be you.