Digital identity theft – when someone uses the name, likeness or other identifiers of a person, organization or business for harmful or fraudulent purposes – is in increase on social media and other online platforms.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) estimates that spoofing attacks have caused global losses of more than $5.3 billion.
With so much of our lives online, we all need to learn strong digital threat awareness skills, including understanding digital identity theft and knowing its warning signs.
Identity theft on social networks
Using this tactic, a cybercriminal can create a profile on a social media platform by stealing and using personally identifiable information (including your name, image, location, and background). Scammers can impersonate individuals or organizations on social media, and you might interact with these fake accounts online.
Here are some of the reasons why cybercriminals create these types of fraudulent accounts:
● Phishing or attempting to steal other people’s money, passwords or personal data
● Trick people into clicking on malicious links
● Catfishing (using fake identities to form dishonest relationships online)
How to protect against digital identity theft
So how do you spot fake accounts? In general, fake accounts have been created recently, with only a few friends or followers. They will sometimes send strange messages containing suspicious links, or there may be spelling mistakes in their account names, URLs or messages.
Be vigilant when online and do not share personal information or images when accepting new friend or follower requests. Never give money to someone who asks for it online and leave any site that looks suspicious.
If you’re worried about scammers stealing your identity, adjust your privacy settings so your profile isn’t public, and think carefully about what information you share in your profile updates. For example, personal information such as the names of your children or your pets could be used to create a fake digital account under your name.
To check for hackers who may have stolen your digital identity, do a regular online search of your name and see what happens. With a reverse image search, you can also upload a photo and see where that image is being used online.
How the Metaverse Could Be Contributing to the Problem
The Metaverse – a persistent, shared virtual world that users can access across different devices and platforms using an avatar – already offers much more immersive experiences for users around the world, and development is just beginning. .
But with the wonder and awe that come with the immersive world of the Metaverse, there are dangers too.
In the metaverse, your online friends are recognizable because they appear as custom avatars. But a hacker could hijack your metaverse identity to perpetrate acts of fraud. For example, once a hacker is in your account, they can contact your friends and ask for passwords, data, money, or other information, while impersonating you online.
This type of metaverse impersonation scam is even more intrusive and violent than other types of online impersonation, and it could result in significant financial or reputational damage.
You also risk unknowingly interacting with scammers in the metaverse. When a hacker appears in front of you in the metaverse, you might think you’re interacting with a friend, but it could be an ill-intentioned stranger.
Metaverse users will need to be trained on how to avoid these types of social impersonation attacks to protect themselves and their networks.
To look forward
Human beings are wired to trust others, and we have a deep need for connection that we often satisfy through digital interactions. Cybercriminals take advantage of these qualities and prey on people who consume content quickly and can be caught off guard if they are not careful.
Researchers and other cybersecurity professionals are working with law enforcement and legal experts to find answers to this growing problem, but it is in our interest to cultivate digital threat awareness skills to protect ourselves against the hacking of our online identities.
Learn more about how to develop digital threat awareness and other essential skills in my new book Future Skills: The 20 Skills Everyone Needs to Succeed in a Digital Worldsubscribe to my newsletter and join me on TwitterLinkedIn and YouTube.