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Identity theft is on the rise. According to StatisticBrain, there are between 12 and 15 million victims every year with an average loss of about $5,000 per victim. What would you do if you were next?
There are so many different ways your identity can be stolen these days. Social security numbers and banking PINs are the obvious methods, but here are a few other methods you may not be aware of:
- ATM receipts and boarding passes.
- Compromised ATMs with fake card readers.
- Stolen medical bills and receipts.
- Stolen login credentials over public Wi-Fi.
- Stolen login credentials due to keylogging malware.
- Leaked or hacked business databases.
You can’t be in 100% control over all of these potential attack vectors, but it’s in your best interest to cover your tracks as much as possible. Risk minimization is the name of the game, and one way to do that is to use disposable information on the web whenever you can.
1. Disposable Name and Address
In 2014, a SWAT team busted into the house of a well-known gaming streamer (named Kootra) when one of his watchers phoned in a prank claiming that he was holding people hostage.
In the most recent election, Trump supporters on social media were heavily “doxed” — their real-life personal details were discovered and released to the public, opening the door for others to abuse that information however they saw fit.
These are just two of many ways in which your life can be unexpectedly ruined on the internet. Other ways include being scammed, being stalked, and being hacked.
Unless absolutely necessary, never input your real name or address on a website. You never know how it could be traced back to you, and if that ever happens, you won’t realize it until it’s too late.
And that’s why you should use Fake Name Generator, which can fabricate entire identities that you can use in place of your real self. The fake details include addresses, GPS locations, online usernames, credit card numbers, employment info, and more. It’s actually quite impressive.
2. Disposable Phone Number
Let’s say you just got a brand new DSLR and you want to sell your old one on Craigslist or eBay. On the one hand, you should put your phone number up in case they want to ask you questions or discuss pricing. On the other hand, why would you ever publicize your phone number like that?
The answer is to use a disposable phone number that you can dismantle as soon as you no longer need it.
This is also useful when signing up for websites that require you to enter a phone number because it’s likely that your phone number will be sold to telemarketers — so once you start receiving spam calls, you can just dismantle it and move onto a new disposable number.
Hushed is an excellent app for this, available for both Android and iOS. You can create numbers in over 40 countries, these numbers are forwarded to your real number, and each number gets its own voicemail. Costs $4 per month, $30 per year, or pay-as-you-go for $0.05 per minute.
Google Voice is also an option. The upside is that it’s free, but the downside is that it doesn’t have as many anonymity features as Hushed and is only available in the U.S.
3. Disposable Email Inbox
Here’s the truth about email spam: there’s no way to avoid it. If your email address is made public in any way, even for no reason other than to create an account on a website, then spammers will somehow find it.
But what’s even worse is that if spammers can find your email address, then so can hackers — if a hacker finds your email address, then he gains access to everything in your inbox.
Now think about how much sensitive information your inbox contains: new account welcome details, password resets, personal correspondences, login credentials, etc. If someone gains access to your inbox, they gain access to your whole life — especially if you use one password for all of your accounts.
A disposable email address can mitigate both of these problems.
We recommend using 10MinuteMail, which creates a temporary inbox that self-destructs after 10 minutes (though you can keep extending it by an additional 10 minutes if you need to). This way you never have to expose your real email address. See our overview of YOPmail for another option.
4. Disposable Login Credentials
While we’re on the topic of account creation on the web, you should know that there are several occasions where you may not need to create an account at all — you can just use one that somebody else created and shared for public access.
BugMeNot is pretty much the only site that does this, but that’s actually a good thing because it means everyone uses it, resulting in more accounts shared.
There are three restrictions on what kinds of accounts can’t be shared: paywall account sites, community-edited sites, and fraud risk sites likes banks and online shops. All other sites are fair game.
So what’s the point? It allows you to see what creating an account would get you without having to go through the hassle of creating one yourself.
For example, some forums force you to make an account before you can read anything, while some sites require an account to access download links. With BugMeNot, you can check all of that out without risking your own personal information in the process.
5. Disposable File Sharing
If there’s one more thing you should keep both anonymous and disposable, it’s any file that you share with friends or family on the web.
There isn’t much risk of having your identity stolen when sharing files (unless the file itself contains information that can be used to identify you) but it’s good to use a disposable service for privacy’s sake anyway.
A lot of hosting services will auto-delete files after a given time period, anywhere from 24 hours to 30 days or even longer, but we recommend using Send Anywhere because it deletes as soon as the file is downloaded.
Other Ways to Keep Your Identity Safe
How will you know if your identity has been stolen? By staying on top of the warning signs! You have to be proactive. The moment your identity gets stolen is when the clock starts ticking, and the sooner you catch it the more likely you’ll be able to recover from it.
Have you ever dealt with identity theft? Know of any other tips worth mentioning? Or any other disposable accounts to start using? Share with us in the comments below!
Image Credit: Sira Anamwong via Shutterstock.com