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How weak passwords can lead to identity theft?

Since passwords are the keys to your online accounts and personal data, identity thieves are always looking for ways to get their hands on them.

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Image: Screenshot / KnowTechie

Identity theft has become a widespread problem worldwide and the US is no exception. This is evident from the fact that almost 60 million Americans encountered the horror of identity theft in 2018 alone, according to an online survey by The Harris Poll.

As more and more of our lives are spent online, the risk of falling victim to the cybercrime only increases. Your online identity is valuable and using strong passwords will ensure it remains protected from hackers and thieves.

But first…

So, What Is Identity Theft?

Identity theft, also referred to as identity fraud, involves a perpetrator stealing your personally identifiable information (PII), such as credit card details or Social Security number, and using it to their advantage without your knowledge.

What Happens When Your Identity Is Stolen?

Unfortunately, no one is really safe from the dangers of identity theft. It can strike just about anyone at any time. If you’ve fallen victim, it can result in damage to your credit score, direct financial loss, and emotional distress.

It can also affect you through missed payments which can come with big fees and credit impacts, and not to mention, IRS penalties – if you’re combating tax identity theft. Then, there’s also the possibility of you losing access to your personal accounts.

This means that identity thieves would have access to your private data, selling it on the dark web for a profit or using it to commit financial fraud. Moreover, it can take months or years to sort the mess created by the thieves, only adding to the already high frustration level.

These are just some inconveniences of a stolen identity, and they cause people real pain not just financially but also psychologically and emotionally. A study by the Identity Theft Resource Center revealed that 7% of identity theft victims contemplated suicide.

How Identity Theft & Passwords Are Connected?

For as long as we can remember, usernames and passwords are the most common means of authenticating people online. In most scenarios, your username is actually the email address you used to sign up and so obtaining them isn’t too hard of a task.

Keeping that in mind, the only thing keeping the bad guys from gaining access to your accounts is usually your password. In spite of this, most people don’t seem to understand the importance of treating passwords with respect.

Not only do individuals make the mistake of picking frequently used passwords like “password”, “Qwerty” and “123456”, but also they reuse them across multiple websites and services – which is yet another bad password practice.

Though you may not exactly mind having your Quora profile getting hacked, the results could be potentially devastating if the password that opened it also allows the offender to get into your online banking account.

How to Create Strong Passwords?

Now that you finally understand what identity theft is, and how choosing weak passwords can leave you exposed to this type of cybercrime, let’s go through some simple yet useful tips on creating strong passwords:

The Longer, the Better

First of all, the passwords you select should be long enough to make it difficult for hackers to break them. Therefore, aim for at least 12 characters because of the more the combinations, the more time it will take to crack.

Complexity is Important

To create uncrackable passwords, you must also make them complex to guess. This can be done by including symbols, numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters. If your password is a phrase, capitalize the first letter of each word for some added complexity.

Focus on Unpredictability

Avoid using easily discoverable information in your passwords, such as your date of birth or high school’s name. Additionally, it’s important to not use predictable words or make any references to popular movies or TV shows.

NOTE: The password you come up with should not be featured on this list of top 100 worst passwords of 2018.

Must be Unique

As mentioned earlier, using the same password for multiple accounts is one of the riskiest things that you can do. Be sure to only use one password for one account and make sure you store them in a safe place – using a secure password manager like LastPass or Passpack can prove useful here!

Final Words – Join PureVPN in Raising Awareness about Safer Internet Day 2019

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the connection between weak passwords and how they contribute to cyber crimes like identity theft.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight an important cause. Safer Internet Day 2019 is almost here, and PureVPN has partnered with the UK Safer Internet Center to celebrate the initiative.

They have published an all-inclusive resource on Internet Safety, and are also giving away 10 free monthly VPN accounts to people who take part in their SID campaign.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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