Many sufferers experience it in the most disagreeable way: because out of the blue they get an invoice, a letter from a lawyer or even a debt collection company and they claim money for something they have never ordered or registered.

If someone appears on your behalf as a buyer on eBay or even opened their own online shop on your behalf in order to bark in good faith customers, you have little opportunity to recognize this in advance.

If you are worried that your data is already being abused, there are several ways to alleviate this suspicion.

You can have one Set up Google Alert for your name. This is an automatic search query. Then you will be notified by e-mail each time your name is found by Google in a new location on the web. This works without logging in to Google. However, only publicly accessible pages are found.

With the reverse Google Image Search also lets you see if your images are being used on other pages.

A clear definition of identity theft as a separate offense does not exist. Depending on the design, different case types are summarized below. The most important:

  • Someone logs on to online shops in their name and orders goods to another address. The bill goes to you.
  • Someone gains access to your email account or Facebook profile. Then he acts as you – with the aim of discrediting or damaging you to others. It may be, for example, that perpetrators insult others on your behalf or even announce a killing spree.
  • The “granddaughter trick” has also arrived in the virtual world: via the Internet, they receive the call for help from a supposed friend, who – often abroad – is in a sudden emergency and urgently needs money to get home. Behind it are scammers who have hacked or faked your friend’s email account or Facebook profile.
  • The widest possible definition already leads to identity theft when hackers steal end masse enrolment data without necessarily being abused.

Although identity theft as such is not an offense, stolen identities may then commit crimes (such as document forgery or stalking).

How common is identity theft on the net?

That’s hard to say. Because there is no uniform definition, there are no reliable figures here. According to Data from Cyber Security Malaysia (CSM), an agency under the Science, Technology and Innovations Ministry, it shows a total of 2,428 cybercrime incidences reported between January and April 2017, that’s a 20% jump compares to 2015. On another report, CSM reported between 9,000-10,000 incident reports for data breaches each year. The dark figure is likely to be much higher.

It is clear: For years, there are more and more reports of identity theft in the network. But that’s no surprise when more and more people use the Internet to communicate or shop. Our lives are increasingly digital, but digital identities are relatively unprotected.

How do perpetrators get data from other people?

Again, there are a number of ways:

  • Your online account is targeted by hackers.
  • You will be emailed to a fake company site where you will be asked to enter your customer information (phishing).
  • Your computer is infected via the Internet with a Trojan, a software that can intercept and forward your data.
  • Online shops lure with (fake) goods – this is apparently delivered without any problems. But your customer data given there will continue to be used by the perpetrators.
  • Vulnerabilities in companies that steal customer data on a grand scale.
  • You reveal data yourself (unintentionally): This can be the case, for example, if you divulge details on the net that you can use to identify yourself elsewhere (such as the popular pet security question). Or when scammers in a social network steal your photos to create a profile elsewhere on your behalf.
  • The perpetrators used only data that is already known to them from the real world or publicly available: As you call by first and last name, is now known to many people – and for some abuse that’s enough. Your exact date of birth is known to everyone who was with you in a school class. If you get past your mailbox or dustbin, you can find out from which companies you are getting mail.
  • Fake emails from Amazon, PayPal or the bank probably had everyone in their mailbox before – so you recognize the sneaky fraudulent emails more.

How can I protect myself?

Even online, you can hardly protect yourself against criminal energy if you do not want to spend your life in an uncomfortable fortress. However, you should take a few precautionary measures in order not to make it too easy for malefactors.

  • Always log out of all websites if you use public Internet access.
  • Do not click on links and attachments in emails from unknown senders. Before entering user data: For links in the browser’s address bar, check to see if it really has the correct Internet address, or if it’s a fake page with a slightly different address.
  • Carefully consider where to use your real name and where a pseudonym is sufficient as a username.
  • Do not indiscriminately accept friend requests from unknown people on social networks. Be careful when a friend asks you again for a friend request because his account information has been lost. Occasionally check such requests outside the digital sphere.
  • Protect your digital identities: Do not use the same email address everywhere to sign up (and of course not the same password, but one that is as complex as possible). You can create several different free e-mail addresses. This will avoid a chain reaction if your email account has been cracked. See if you can protect your user account with so-called dual authentication with a mobile phone code.
  • If a web page offers you security questions – such as “What was your first job?” – choose a question that cannot be researched on the Internet.

What can I do if I become a victim of identity theft?

Even if nothing really bad happened, a lot of unpleasant work comes to you:

  • Report a fake profile on a social network immediately to the operator. (Like Facebook) Attention: You may need to prove by ID that you are the right owner. This can be difficult if you have signed up under a pseudonym.
  • Inform friends, colleagues and acquaintances about the forgery (the most important also by phone or in person). Ask them to also report the counterfeit to the operator.
  • Contact an operator of a website with someone on your behalf immediately and report to the police. If things get more complicated, consult a lawyer.
  • Check your computer for possible Trojans with an anti-virus program or have it done by a specialist.
  • Immediately change your passwords and check your remaining user data so that a fraudster has not entered their own e-mail address there.
  • Check your bank statements and request information from the Schufa. Repeat this more often in the next few weeks.
  • Make a police report immediately.
  • Call Cyber 999 at 1-300-88-2999 24×7 (Emergency): +6019 – 266 5850