How to Protect Your Online Identity from the Rising Threat of Account Takeover

September 28, 2023



Account takeover fraud is a significant problem for both consumers and businesses. Consumers may face identity theft, while business customers can be left to pay the bill when scammers take over accounts and make unauthorized transactions.

Fraudsters use social engineering, malware, and brute force attacks to access online accounts. These methods allow them to steal valuable insights, monetize data, and make fraudulent purchases.

Change Your Passwords Regularly

The key to protecting your online identity is keeping a vigilant eye on all accounts and changing passwords regularly. Most cybersecurity experts recommend using complex and unique passwords with a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to reduce the risk of account takeover. However, it’s important to understand that cybercriminal can use stolen passwords from one account to re-open and access other accounts, even those not used for e-commerce purchases or banking transactions. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly change passwords across all your personal and work-related accounts and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on as many of those accounts as possible to add an extra layer of security.

Fraudsters typically obtain account credentials from phishing, data breaches, social engineering, and malware attacks. Once they have these, they can re-open and access other accounts or scam friends and family for financial gain.

They can also use those stolen credentials to perform “credential stuffing,” where they systematically test passwords and usernames to see what other services they can get into. This is because hackers know that many people reuse the same passwords for multiple different accounts.

In some cases, account takeover fraud can cause significant damage to a person’s credit and reputation. It can affect individuals, families, and businesses of all sizes. In addition, it can also impact large businesses, especially if the stolen information is then sold on the dark web.

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

One of the best ways to keep criminals away from your online accounts is by enabling two-factor authentication. This security measure requires entering a credential from two categories to log in. Those include something you know, like a password or PIN; something you have, such as a one-time verification passcode you receive by text or email from an authenticator app; and something you are, like your fingerprint or a face scan.

Many sites and apps now offer 2FA, but it’s not always on by default. To enable it, visit your account settings and look for the option to add an extra layer of security. Start with your most sensitive accounts, including your bank and credit card, tax filing website, and social media accounts.

Once criminals have your username and password, they can do all sorts of damage. They can drain your bank account, scam your friends and family, or steal your identity. They can also use your login credentials to gain access to other accounts—such as a wireless phone contract, which can allow them to make calls and send texts on your dime.

Criminals can get your login information in some ways, including malware and phishing scams. They can also buy stolen login information on the dark web. Some hackers use their stolen credentials as the starting point for other cyberattacks, such as resetting passwords on other accounts and conducting credit card fraud.

Keep Your Devices Up-to-Date

The most crucial thing you can do is to keep your gadgets updated. The interruption of software updates while work or play is obviously annoying, but it's vital to protect your devices from hackers. Anytime your smartphone asks you to update, do it right away. These upgrades frequently include fixes for security flaws that crooks might use.

Using stolen login information, criminals can access legitimate credit cards, shopping, or government welfare accounts. Once they get access to these accounts, they may wreck havoc on the finances of their victims and consume all of their time as they work to repair the damage and stop further abuse.

Since criminals frequently imitate the behavior of normal users, account takeover attacks can be challenging to spot. A victim's account parameters may also be altered so they no longer get notifications informing them of suspicious behavior.

Cybercriminals can also use stolen account information to commit other types of fraud. For instance, they can use a person’s login information to hijack their wireless phone contract and begin making calls or sending texts on their behalf, resulting in costly overages for the victim. In addition, fraudulent charges can lead to chargebacks that increase payment gateway companies’ transaction fees and cost businesses money.

Don’t Click on Links in Emails or Text Messages from Unknown Senders

Account takeover fraud (ATO) is a cybercrime when criminals gain unlawful access to an online account. This can include anything from an email or bank account to a social media or shopping website. Criminals use stolen login information to access the account and steal money or personal data. This information can then be used to commit identity theft or sell on the dark web.

Criminals can use stolen credentials to break into an account and steal personal information by using bots to sift through databases of breached logins. These bots can also run credential stuffing or card cracking to test username and password combinations on multiple websites until they can access the account successfully.

Once an attacker has gained access to an account, they can make purchases, use loyalty credits, or even change the account. This can lead to different fraudulent transactions that result in business chargebacks and strain customer relationships.

As such, businesses need to protect themselves against ATO and other types of fraud by implementing a security solution to detect suspicious activity and alert users to any risks. For example, some solutions can monitor account activity in real-time to see if any behavior change may indicate a threat. This can be especially useful for e-commerce sites that often deal with sensitive customer information such as credit card details.


Urban Splatter

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