The internet has come a long way in the last 20 years, evolving from a curious little novelty to a necessary part of our daily lives. Social media and email allows us to communicate with friends and loved ones who may be thousands of miles away whenever we want, online banking affords us greater and quicker ease with paying bills, and smartphones have placed all of the conveniences of the web in the palm of our hands. There's no doubt that the internet has changed the game. Unfortunately, that goes for criminals too, with identity theft online running more rampant than ever before.
ID theft is the most frequently cited complaint issued to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In fact, the FTC has branded identity theft as the fastest-growing crime in America, affecting thousands of more people each year. Whether through corporate data breaches, hacked email addresses and social media accounts, phishing scam or fraudulent tax refunds, ID thieves have used the web's interconnectivity with our lives - not to mention our finances - to their advantage, stealing victims' personal and financial information in droves. These cyber thefts then lead to phony transactions, fake accounts or loans opened under your name and an all-together tarnished credit score, which can seriously impact a lifetime of future financial planning.
Being aware of the prevalence of online ID theft, and the various ways it presents itself, is key to staying one step ahead of these cyber criminals. But it's also important to take proactive measures of your own. A credit monitoring service, while not a 100 percent guaranteed form of identity protection, can oversee your financial activity for certain types of charges or errors on your credit file. In the event a potentially fraudulent transaction is identified, the consumer is notified, allowing them to curb the damage of ID theft before it's too late.