Like any crime, identity fraud is without a doubt distressing for the victims involved. With the right amount of personal data, cyber criminals can easily take over a victim's identity to commit a wide range of crimes such as false applications for loans and credit cards, fraudulent monetary withdrawals or obtaining goods and privileges that the cyber criminals might not have access to if they were using their own identities.
In many cases, a victim's losses may include direct financial losses (such as fraudulent credit card charges) and the additional costs associated with trying to restore his or her reputation in the community.
Cyber crime in Singapore
The Norton Cybercrime Report 2012 reveals an increase in "new" forms of cyber crime from last year, such as those found on social networks or mobile devices - a sign that cyber criminals are starting to focus their efforts on these increasingly popular platforms.
One in five online adults in Singapore has been a victim of either social or mobile cyber crime, while more than a third of social network users have been victims of identity fraud or social cyber crime. However, what makes it even tougher to curb and fight against cyber crime is the extent to which consumers are coming up short - both in terms of their attempts and level of knowledge of how to best protect themselves online.
The report found that in Singapore, online users ignore core precautions: 41 percent leave their information open to cyber criminals and scammers by not using complex passwords and changing their passwords frequently, and 40 percent do not check for the padlock symbol in the browser before entering sensitive personal information - such as banking details - online.
The report also indicated that many online users are unaware about how some of the most common forms of cyber crime have evolved over the years and thus have a difficult time recognising how malware can behave on their computer. In fact, just over one third of Singaporeans do not know that malware can operate in a discreet fashion, making it hard to know if a computer has been compromised, and more than half are not certain that their computer is currently clean and free of viruses.
This further reiterates that while most people are security savvy when it comes to protecting their physical belongings, they need to work harder and smarter to protect their information and data online.
Protecting what matters
Staying safe online is all about individual accountability and vigilance and the same rules we observe when we interact in the offline world should be applied in the online one. For example, we would not share personal information with strangers we meet on the street, so our private information should not be readily available online to the world.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.