Theft has been going on nearly as long as there has been life on Earth. When the Internet was invented, theft was digitized and, one can argue, that’s where it really took off. One of the more common types of online theft revolves around criminals stealing online identities and there’s big business in people’s personal information.
In the first quarter of 2012, nearly 12 million pieces of online identification and personal information were stolen by thieves. This represents a nearly threefold increase over the same time period in 2010. A staggering number for just three months, and it’s forecasted that the number will only increase in the years to come.
With this large amount of information being stolen, the question many are asking is why is this increasing? There are a number of reasons, the biggest being that netizens are signing up for more online accounts. Take a moment to try and count the number of accounts you have online; on average people have 26. Now, think how many passwords you use for these online accounts. An overwhelming majority use five or fewer. If thieves get a hold of one password, chances are nearly 80% that they will be able to gain access to other accounts.
If you are one of the many users who use the same email for a number of different accounts, your chances of having vital private information stolen from an account breach are nearly 100%. If you’ve connected or stored copies of identification or credit cards using an account that gets hacked, there’s no stopping someone from stealing your identity.
A recent study conducted by Experian, a credit-checking company, found that 14% of identity theft victims experience refusal of loans and credit-cards, 9% have debt racked up in their name, 7% are refused phone contracts and 7% are chased by debt collectors. While potentially scary stuff, most theft can luckily be prevented. You should ensure that you use a different password for every online account, that no important information (e.g., credit card, Social Insurance, Passport, etc.) is stored online and you use a password that is hard to guess.