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It has become an increasingly common occurrence and thousands of Americans fall victim to it every year.  It is so profitable that some street gangs are beginning to turn to it over selling drugs or prostitution because it garners them more money.

And while Identity theft may not be as romanticized in music and in film as are the traditional money makers for street gangs, it is still very illegal and very lucrative.  Identity theft occurs when a criminal gains access to another person’s private records, namely financial records, and assumes their identity in order to spend the victim’s money.Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

This process is becoming increasingly easier to accomplish for the criminals as more and more private financial records, such as bank statements and account information, are being sent and received online.  While all of these records are protected by personal passwords, if the criminal can gain access to even a person’s email account then they will most likely be able to find personal identification information that they will be able to use to steal their victims identity.One of the first and best ways to avoid getting your identity stolen by online criminals is to update your password with one that actually works.  Last year, the most common password online was still “password.”

Needless to say, this is an example of a less effective, potentially dangerous password.  But updating the password on personal accounts to a more secure and effective password is just one step.

People can remain the most secure online by watching what personal information they choose to give online.  Social media sites are especially dangerous places to place personal information because they are open for criminals to see.

A cyber-criminal will scan these social media sites for personal information that they can then use to convince a website that they are you.  Such information that enables them to do this is birthdays, phone numbers, the names of high schools people have attended, and their pets names.

All of this information can be used to hack into a secured account through the “reset password” function where “secret” questions are answered.  The issue is that the questions usually deal with things like a pets name, former high school, mother’s maiden name, etc.

By avoiding these common pitfalls while online, a person will be able to further secure their identity and protect themselves from identity thieves.