If you’re broke or your credit score looks dismal, it seems natural to view online security and things like identity theft as unimportant. After all, they’re after money, right? If I don’t have anything, what can they possibly do to me?
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You’re wrong. Even if you have no money to steal, a credit score that may never recover, or have loads of debt, your information is still very valuable to criminals. Here are some ways that hackers can affect you, even if you have no money or have a poor credit rating:
Send Emails From Your Email Address
If a hacker gains access to your email account, they have access to anyone you’ve ever been in contact with. This can include not only your friends and family but also your workplace contacts and any company you’ve ever done or considered doing business with. Using this information, they can:
* Scam Your Contact List - While you may not have money, someone on your contact list might. Scammers capitalize on the trust that you have with friends and family members by sending emails in your name, asking contacts to do things that they wouldn’t do if asked by someone unfamiliar, like clicking on links or downloading files. These then lead to phishing scams and malware where their information is then provided to criminals. They may also pose as you and request financial help with an emergency. For example, if you mentioned that you’re going on a trip or have an ill family member, they might email your contacts requesting emergency financial help with a trip gone wrong or an emergency surgery. This can seriously damage your reputation with friends and family or in the workplace.
* Conduct Mass Email Scams - Once a hacker has done all they can do with your personal contacts, they’ll typically use your email address to send mass emails with phishing links, malicious files, or other scam attempts to email lists that they’ve obtained. These emails include your name and email address, which means that your name is now being associated with scams and other malicious activities online.
Open Bank Accounts In Your Name
A hacker who learns basic information about you can use that information to open online accounts in your name, including financial accounts. While you may not have money to steal or a high credit score, these still come at a great value to a hacker.
Most bank accounts allow their customers to overdraw a bank account as it benefits them in the end financially. When a hacker opens a bank account in your name, they may initially deposit a small amount of their own money, but in the end, they withdraw that amount, plus much more. They continue to make withdrawals for as long as the banking institution allows and then abandon the account severely overdrawn and racking up several rounds of overdraft fees. These overdraft fees are then reflected on your Banking Reports and eventually on your Credit Report, which can prevent you from being able to open bank accounts in the future and can severely affect your credit report.
Affect Your Criminal Record
Criminals buy and sell identities on the dark web that are used to create fake birth certificates, passports, and identification. These fakes are often tricky to spot because they can be linked back to a real person--you! This means that if they commit a crime and it can be linked back to their fake identification, you can find yourself with warrants for your arrest and the need to defend yourself in court and prove that you weren’t the one involved.
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Prevent You From Repairing Your Credit
You may not have money or a good credit rating now, but that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. One day you might find yourself with a better paying job, or you might have your credit repaired. After all that hard work, maybe you want to buy a house or buy a new car. If your information was breached in the past, hackers still have that information. As soon as they catch wind that there’s money in your bank account or that your credit rating has improved and you qualify to open credit cards and secured loans, they’re going to jump on the opportunity right away. Can you imagine sitting down to close on your house after years of hard work and months of searching for the right home, just to be told that you no longer qualify for the loan because of the criminal’s actions?
What Can I Do To Stay Safe?
Get past the idea that “it’ll never happen to me” or “I have nothing of value to steal” and realize that personal data, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you now, is precious to criminals. Every one of us is responsible for taking the necessary steps to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our data from falling into the wrong hands. Here are some things that you can do today to protect yourself.
Know ahead of time what you should do if your data is breached. This way, you can take action right away to minimize the damage.
Avoid falling victim to scams, phishing attempts, and malware by activating browser protection to block those threats BEFORE they reach your computer; not afterward like traditional antivirus solutions.
Activate Account Monitoring so that you can be alerted of data breaches involving your information right away and can take immediate action to minimize the damage.
Search for yourself online to ensure that criminals can’t easily obtain your personal information. If you find your information online, immediately contact the source and ask them to remove it.
Set your social media profiles to private. This makes it more difficult for criminals to obtain information about you that’s best shared only with those closest to you.
Create strong passwords. They should contain at least 12 characters and include both alphanumeric and special characters like exclamation points, periods, dollar signs, or percent symbols.