In this post I list a variety of scams that are currently infesting the internet. Identity theft features prominently among these scams.
How can you protect your identity from being stolen?
The main defense is to make it as hard as possible for somebody to impersonate you. Of course, it’s never completely impossible to steal somebody’s identity, but if you make it very hard, then the scammers will likely look for another victim and leave your reputation intact.
Here are a few tips:
- Never post details that are too personal online, for example, your precise date and place of birth, your social security number, and other personally identifying details that are not needed to conduct business.
Of course, certain legislations require you to post your tax number online in your “Impressum”. I am talking about the equivalent of the Umsatzsteuer-ID, which is NOT your Steuernummer/tax ID/social security number. The former identifies your business, the latter identifies you as a person and can be used to impersonate you. Please check your local legislation in this matter and do not confuse the two numbers.
- Get your own domain name and set up your email to run through your domain instead of using a free provider such as Gmail, Yahoo, etc.
That way, it will become much harder for the scammers to impersonate you. They would have to hack your account to do so. If you use a free email account, a scammer can set up another account with a name very similar to yours and use that account to impersonate you. E. g. if your email account is firstname.lastname@example.org, they could set up an account at email@example.com and pretend to be you.
And no, you wouldn’t have to have your own website to own a domain name and run an email account through that domain. Although having a website is always a good idea, even if it’s just one page with your name and contact information. Most hosting providers, including mine, have simple tools that you can use to build your own rudimentary website. You don’t have to be a graphic designer or a website wiz to set up a simple but good-looking page. And having a website hosted doesn’t break the bank these days either. Still, if you don’t want that, there are email-only options, for example also provided by my hosting provider.
- Do not send out your resume or CV in plain text or Word format. Save it in PDF format instead and secure the document with a password.
Every word processing program I know of has the option to “Save as PDF”. Plain text or Word is much easier to edit and tamper with than PDF, especially if the PDF is protected by a password against editing. Obviously, you don’t want to password-protect the file against viewing. I’ll explain in this post how to accomplish that with Adobe Acrobat, assuming that you have saved your document as a PDF file.