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Protect your identity. It is your birthright.

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The thought of an intruder breaking into our home in the middle of the night fills most people with dread, and it should. We have a natural aversion to unwelcome visitors, let alone malicious intruders who threaten our families and our properties. We lock our doors, install cameras and keep watchdogs as a precaution. So why not take the same steps to secure the very essence of ourselves in a much more intrusive and insecure environment: the internet?

Your most valuable asset

Your most valuable asset is the physical characteristics, legal name, identification documents, occupation, experiences, community, sense of self and purpose that make up your identity. All these things, considered holistically, make you, you† No one else who has ever existed or will ever exist on Earth shares your identity. It is unique to you. It is the essence that you share with your family, colleagues and community; it is the foundation of your whole life.

I call it your ‘authentic identity’. No one has a right to it, but that doesn’t stop the most corrupt among us from stealing it.

Related: 4 Ways to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Failed Trust, Lost Trust

We live in a time of unprecedented convenience, but that convenience comes with a hefty price. Thieves, malicious actors and criminals are constantly trying to compromise our identities. Unfortunately, many of us are all too willing to share personal information with anonymous hordes of profiles on the Internet. Yet a large part of the blame lies with the people who determine our internet behavior.

We inherently trust that the entities behind our Internet experience will protect our data, but often that trust is misplaced. Any breach of our identity is a breach of the trust we have when we browse the web. Fraudsters are very sophisticated and can easily steal our most private information when protected behind the thin wall of password authentication. if they do, results can be catastrophic

The dark(er) side of identity theft

When looking at the consequences of identity theft, often the first thing that comes to mind is fraudulent financial activity, such as opening a fake credit card account in our name or applying for a loan. However, there are more personal and intimate ways bad actors can use our identities.

Human trafficking is still a major problem, exacerbated by the internet. Links to identity theft are present, although not immediately apparent. Victims may be coerced into human trafficking by threats from identity thieves or pressured to make financial decisions that take away their independence. Traffickers use false identities to troll social media sites, looking for unwary victims to meet up. Thieves can also use stolen identities to forge identities for trafficked persons, robbing two people of an essential part of their humanity. These victims become invisible to society and unrecognizable to themselves, losing hope that they can ever reclaim their birthright. But there is a way.

Related: How Businesses Can Fight Human Trafficking

A Path to Salvation

The internet was created to share information almost instantly around the world. They succeeded, but that spirit of sharing created a world where the most nefarious among us can operate largely unchecked and behind the cloak of anonymity. It’s time for the most influential companies and agencies in our society to crack down on these thieves and stop them from stealing our most personal information by adopting a security mindset from the start, not just as an afterthought when developing new ones. programs or services.

Even with more robust security practices, identity theft will still occur. The victims of online identity theft often feel a loss of purpose and identity. Yet we must give hope. Even victims of the most brutal and heinous crimes in history have managed to reclaim their identities as masters of their own destiny.

Louis Zamperini is one such story of redemption. Born to Italian immigrants at the turn of the 20th century, Zamperini built a criminal empire in his adolescence on the streets of Torrance, California. However, he then found a passion for high school athletics and went on to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He later enlisted in the Air Corps and served over the Pacific in World War II, where he was captured by the Japanese.

Zamperini refused to give in to his captors despite the daily torment, often enduring brutal beatings and torture for not following the rules. His identity and his humanity were effectively erased during his captivity. He was liberated in 1945, but his experiences continued to haunt him until his conversion to Christianity in the 1950s. He even forgave his most cruel guards.

Related: Your Data Breach Doesn’t Have To Cause Identity Theft

There are many more stories of similar people whose identities were erased by unbelievable hardships† However, many of them were able to pick up the pieces, reclaim their identities and contribute great things to society. The same goes for victims of contemporary identity theft and human trafficking or other forms of exploitation. Their story is not over yet, and they have a human right to exist. It’s time we help these people restore their lives by being more empathetic to those around us who we think are at risk, demanding stricter identity protection rules from our legislative leaders and more action from the companies that we support with our wallet.

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