Regular readers of Thinking Thrifty will know I was the victim of identity fraud back in December 2016.
Some crafty trickster had infiltrated my PayPal account, made the best part of 60 transactions and just for good measure, changed my account into a business name.
Not only that, they had also gained access to my eBay account and made a series of bids on high priced items – which I had to painstakingly explain to several annoyed traders who thought I was lying to save me from buying their items.
To see emailed receipts popping up left, right and centre in real time sat at my desk at work was one of the most sickening experiences of my life.
It was just before Christmas and I had been left penniless and overdrawn.
How did they gain access to my PayPal account?
Very simple, a weak password!
Not glaringly obvious, but simple enough for a hacker to gain access.
I had made the very stupid mistake of having the same password for everything, using the excuse we need passwords for everything now and there are too many to remember.
Whilst that may be the case, it is still a huge mistake to do so as you leave yourself majorly exposed to fraud.
Identity fraud reaches highest level since records began
More and more of our financial dealings are moving online and it is important that you protect yourself accordingly.
There were 172,919 incidents of fraud last year and identity fraud represents 53.3% of all fraud recorded, of which 88% occurred online according to Cifas.
Almost 25,000 victims of fraud were aged under 30, and the number of under-21s affected by fraud rose by a third.
Nine out of ten identity frauds were committed online.
How can I protect myself against online identity fraud?
First and foremost, you must ensure you have very strong passwords with a mixture of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols.
Basically, you want to make it as difficult as possible for a fraudster to gain access to your account.
You must also make sure that you have a different password for every site you are using online.
I know that might sound like a major hassle to remember, but it is better than waking up to find out your bank has been emptied and your credit cards maxed out.
I would also strongly suggest that you do not have PayPal linked to your main account as I did either.
Had it been linked to my spending account there would have been minimal money for them to go out shopping with!
You may also consider using a prepaid account for PayPal, that way if the worse came to the worse, they would only have access to what you had loaded onto your prepaid card, and it is impossible to go overdrawn.
Never save your usernames and passwords on a public or work computer, personally I don’t even have them stored on my own laptop anymore – once bitten, twice shy!
The same applies with writing them down or storing them in your phone, you’re just asking for trouble.
And obviously, never, EVER, give anyone your log in details!
You can check to see if your name is in a fraud database, have a look at this article from Debt Camel which explains everything you would need to do.
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