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06 October 2023 15h50
Source: Banco Carregosa

Identity theft: what it is and how to prevent it

Identity theft: what it is and how to prevent it
Identity theft: what it is and how to prevent it 


Gaining access to sensitive information is becoming increasingly easier. Find out what identity theft is, the warning signs to look out for, and how to protect yourself.


Imagine that you are contacted by your bank and asked to pay an outstanding balance in your name. You don’t recognise the transaction or remember having transferred any funds. If this has happened to you, you are one of the nearly 6 million people worldwide who have experienced this situation in the last year alone, according to DataProt. Identity theft linked to financial crime continues to have a major impact on society and is increasingly facilitated by social networking and the proliferation of applications that store personal information. Find out what identity theft is, what the warning signs are, and what to do if it happens to you. 


What is identity theft?

Identity theft involves obtaining and using a person’s information for unlawful purposes, such as financial fraud, embezzlement or other illegal activities. The criminal uses the victim’s financial details, such as credit card details or home banking access, to carry out transactions on behalf of another person. For example, criminals may be able to open bank accounts in your name, make bank transfers, apply for credit and debit cards, or even take out loans. 


Annual financial loss caused by cybercrime in the US, 2001 to 2022

 Annual value of financial damage caused by cybercrime in the US, 2001 to 2022

Source: Statista


This type of crime is not new, but the digitisation of public services, such as social security and finance, and private services, from insurance to banking and energy, makes personal information more accessible and easier to be used for fraudulent purposes. In addition, many people freely share information about themselves online, such as photographs, dates of birth, addresses and other information, opening the door to increased identity theft.



What can you do to protect yourself against identity theft?

To avoid becoming a victim of identity theft, there are a number of precautions you can take. The most important are:


1. Only share information that is really needed

If you are asked for more sensitive information that is not directly related to the product or service you are subscribing to, ask why it is needed, how it will be used, and what safeguards are in place that it remains private. 


2. Use social media in moderation

Avoid giving out personal information, such as your address or date of birth, on social networking sites, and be careful when giving out information on other platforms and applications. This information can be stolen and used to create a fake identity.


3. Shred statements and private records

Shred your credit cards, bank statements and any other documents that contain private or sensitive financial information. Don’t leave receipts, credit cards or anything else that could put you at risk at an ATM. 


4. Check your statements carefully

Keep track of all your transactions and make sure you recognise all the movements on your bank statements. If you spot any suspicious activity, alert the relevant organisation as soon as possible. 


5. Lock your mobile phone

Most banking services are managed through home banking, which means that access to your mobile phone means access to your accounts. So make sure you lock your phone and disable facial recognition. It is easy for criminals to unlock your phone by pointing it at you or at a photo of you on the internet. 


6. Invest in digital literacy 

Most identity theft happens to people who are not digitally savvy, so it's important to invest in these skills in order to use banking services safely. It's important to learn how to spot phishing scams, protect yourself from malware infecting your devices and avoid visiting suspicious websites. 



What are the signs that my identity has been stolen?

The more vigilant you are, the sooner you can spot the warning signs of identity theft, and the easier it will be for you to recover or minimise any losses. They are: 


• Suspicious activity on your financial records. 


• Unexplained changes to your balance.


• Login alerts not recognised.


• Receiving undue random charges. 



What should you do if your identity is stolen?

If your identity has been stolen, follow these steps:


1. Notify the bank immediately. The first step is to contact the bank and cancel all your cards, including home banking access. This will prevent the thieves from causing any further damage.


2. Report the incident to the police. You should then file a police report against unknown persons so that an investigation can begin. 


3. Cancel your identity documents. If you lose your Citizen Card, you must cancel it and apply for a new one. 


4. Change your passwords. To prevent future identity theft, update all your passwords and use unique, hard-to-guess passwords. 


5. Gather all evidence of identity theft. Try to collect any documents that can help prove identity theft, such as bank statements and credit and debit card reports. Also keep a record of any contact you have had with the police and banks. 



Banco Carregosa, protection against identity theft

Identity theft can have devastating consequences. That is why security is one of Banco Carregosa’s main concerns. See proactive protection systems to ensure compliance with the best international security practices. You can rely on us to protect your information and assets.