Personal Identity Theft
Cybersecurity can have many implications on consumers and ranking among the top is Identity Theft. The news covers the big hacks, involving ransomware, millions in damages, and huge numbers of affected records and systems. What isn’t talked about as much, is Personal Identity Theft. According to the FTC Consumer Sentinel Network, there were 1.3 million reports of Identity Theft in 2020 alone. That is an increase from 2019, where the FTC received 650,572 complaints. It is easy to see how Identity Theft is not only an issue, but a growing concern for the average consumer.
What is identity theft?
Identity Theft is more than a stolen credit card. Identity Theft is the use of another persons’ identity for financial gain by several means, such as withdrawing funds, taking out credit, purchasing merchandise, filing tax returns, and receiving medical care or social security benefits. Sometimes, your information itself is sold, including social security, account numbers, address, credit cards, login information, etc. Once your information has been exposed, it is often out there forever.
How does my identity get stolen?
There are many ways in which Identity Theft can take place, however a few common methods make up the bulk of incidents. These could include; stealing login information to banking or other sensitive websites or services, installing ransomware on your computer, sending fake text messages, emails with malicious links, or even classic dumpster diving. The most common techniques involve using login information or phishing emails.
How to protect yourself?
Here are some recommended steps everyone should take in protecting their identity:
- Shred sensitive documents, credit card pre-approvals, tax documents, etc with a cross shredder.
- Request a credit freeze with the credit bureaus to prevent credit from being ran without you temporarily releasing the freeze.
- Set up multi-factor authentication on your email, banking, and financial websites.
- Use a password manager to secure your passwords and help create unique, diverse, and secure passwords.
- Don’t overshare personal information on social media.
- Be aware of phishing emails and texts.
- Be careful with opening links.
- Never give away personal information over the phone or email without verifying who you are talking to.
- Store personal information in a fireproof safe.
- Never carry your social security card with you.
Consider signing up with an identity monitoring service. There are many options available, which monitor your credit, tax, medical, and other identity theft risk areas. The service should also include Identity Theft recovery services and Identity Theft insurance, in case of an incident. These services help monitor, alert, and recover from Identity Theft. Please remember these services are not a substitute for the protection steps listed above.
Identity Theft can have lasting effects on you and your family. Taking the necessary steps ahead of time can help stop theft in its tracks. If you or your family have any questions about Identity Theft or have already been affected, the FTC has great resources available at https://www.identitytheft.gov/.