Online Theft of Personal Info Soars

Illegal online use of personal information is rising sharply this year, according to a report by Experian.

2012 Could See 400% Rise

New figures from Experian CreditExpert’s web monitoring service show that in the first quarter of 2012, identity thieves traded more than 12 million pieces of information online illegally. That's already more than all of 2011, when 9.5 million pieces of information were traded illegally.

If the numbers continue, almost 50 million pieces of information could be traded illegally in 2012, more than four times the amount from the previous year.

Mostly Login/Password Theft

Also surprising in the results is that 90% of the illegal hacking is login/password theft. Experian believes this is due to the growing number of online accounts each person has. In the UK, for example, people have on average dozens of online accounts each; with 25-34 year-olds having on average about 40 accounts each.

The study also found that many people use only a few passwords across all of their accounts; with some using only one. That makes it much easier for thieves to hack into most or all of your online accounts.

How to Protect Yourself

While this is apparently the fastest growing area of online hacking, it is perhaps the easiest to prevent. We've written several blogs about protecting your online identity and accounts from hackers and phishing scams (where someone tries to get you to provide your login/password to certain accounts).

First, if you believe you've been the victim of identity fraud, you might also want to change your usernames and passwords across all of your accounts. If you use the same or similar login/password combinations on multiple accounts, you might want to change that now. Here are some more important tips to protect your identify online.

Make your passwords harder to crack.

After the recent LinkedIn breach, we wrote a blog with some tips on how to create safer passwords. You can read that blog here.

Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams

A common technique used by thieves to steal your login/password combinations is known as a "phishing". You get an email or text message asking you to log in to your online account to fix some urgent problem. The link it asks you to click on actually goes to the scammer's web site, where it steals your login information when you enter it. Never click on the link in such an email.

Click here to watch our YouTube video that shows you how to avoid becoming a victim.

While you're there, you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel.