Identity theft is when someone impersonates you and uses your personal data like your credit cards, name, Social Security number, etc. Bad actors use it to impersonate you. There are many reasons why but the most common reason is for their own financial gain, at the expense of yours. It could get as bad as your bank account being emptied, but other common occurrences include opening new credit lines in your name, getting a utility service, stealing your tax refund, getting access to medical treatments, or giving police your name and address when they are arrested.
Unfortunately, this happens to a lot of people in the world. Varying studies show as many as 1 in 20 Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft. Bad actors will take advantage however they can. It’s important for you to keep a close eye our your digital presence and your digital assets. Constantly monitoring is highly recommended. Take the steps into your own hands and manage risk to best protect yourself and your loved ones.
Your identity may be put at risk unknowingly to you. Organization’s often fall victim to cyber attacks too and unfortunately many don’t take the appropriate steps to ensure that your data is secure. Don’t worry! There are steps you can take to stay protected.
How To Prevent Identity Theft
Remember, Dteckt can help you manage and monitor your digital risk including Identity Theft protection and more.
1. Subscribe to an Identity Monitoring Service
Identity Monitoring services assist you by tapping into the financial network to look for new lines of credit, new deposit account applications, new deposit account openings, changes made to deposit account holder’s information, dark web monitoring, criminal database monitoring, and more.
2. Freeze your Credit
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to have your credit frozen all of the time and only lift it in the even that a lender needs to see your credit. Freezing your credit with all three major credit bureaus will stop any inquiry to try and pull your credit. This is good, there’s A LOT of sensitive information on your credit report.
3. Your Social Security Number (SSN) is Very Private
Your Social Security number is the master key to your personal data. Think of it as one of the most sensitive pieces of information about you. Don’t give it up easily. When you are asked for your number, ask why it is needed and how it will be protected. Store it in a safe and secure space in your home.
4. Don’t Fall Victim to Phishing
Phishing comes in many forms including through Phone, Email, Text, in Person and more. If it seems Phishy, it more than likely is. Don’t trust random callers. Don’t let people remote into your computer. Initiate a callback or return email … yourself prompted by you. Browse directly to known good websites and not to random links sent to you.
5. Passwords and Account Management
Use a password manager to create and store complex, unique passwords for your accounts. Don’t store passwords in a Word or Excel file. Avoid the reuse of passwords and use 2 Step Authentication on systems that have sensitive information in them. Monitor the companies you use for notifications of data breach. If they have a breach, update your password immediately. Your social presence plays a part too. Everything you post online to the web applications you use, your birthday, your username, etc gives bad actors clues about how to access your accounts.
6. Watch your mailbox
People are still stealing mail and packages. A piece of stolen mail from a health provider, a financial institution, or the government is one of the easiest ways to steal an identity. If you leave town, it’s best practice to freeze your mail. Cameras can help you improve your physical security including the security of the contents in your mailbox.
7. Recycle with Care – Shred
Don’t throw away trash that contains sensitive information. Shred it to the point where it is unreadable. Credit cards, bank statements, health information, etc can be taken out of your garbage, and yes people dumpster dive!
8. Protect your Mobile Devices
First and foremost, make sure you have a passcode or biometric authentication enabled to log into your computers and mobile devices. Mobile devices store a lot of personal information and if stolen, are keys to your kingdom.
9. Check your Credit Reports
There are many services that provide visibility to your credit reports. If you’re interested in Credit, go that route. If your identity is what matters to you than the right identity monitoring service will take care of credit monitoring for you and alert you of new or suspicious activity.
10. Monitor Financial and Medical Statements
In addition to monitoring your identity, finances and medical statements should be watched as well. A good identity services taps into feeds to monitor these areas too. It’s always recommended to use a centralized money manager for a single view to see all of your account, trends, and spending activity.
How Does Identity Theft Occur?
Someone calls, texts, or emails you to get you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do. Don’t get phished! It’s the number one way for someone to steal your data and identity. Phone scams are very common such as the fake IRS calling you to try and get information from you over the phone. We promise, the likelihood of the IRS calling you like that for personal information is extremely low.
2. Lost Wallet
Once lost, everything in there is now the thieves or whomever they decide to sell it too. Use a lost wallet protection service to log all of the items in your wallet. Act fast if lost or stolen and report stolen cards to every organization, medical company, or financial institution. Never carry your Social Security card or birth certification with you in your wallet.
3. Mailbox Theft
Check your mail everyday to minimize risk. Get a camera with real time and historical monitoring so you can go back and look if you suspect a mailbox thief.
4. Connecting to Insecure Networks (Wi-Fi)
It’s really a dangerous game to connect to somebody else’s network. If they know what their doing, they can watch everything you do while your on their network – steal passwords for websites you log into, see all of your traffic to and from websites, see all the webpages you go to, etc. Even worse, if they don’t know what their doing they can inadvertently expose you to other attackers that were able to hack into their network. It’s best to use known networks and take matters into your own hands and secure your computer or mobile device.
5. Data Breaches
This is where the consumer market has the most problems. There are no tools available to give visibility into an organization’s performance and whether or not they are taking steps to safeguard your data. Dteckt believe’s that every consumer should get the ability to see into an organization’s performance and be given the ability to see free performance grades. It’s key to understand their security posture before you decide to do business with them. It’s unfortunate that you don’t always have a choice of whether to give a company your personal information, such as with the Credit Bureaus but at least with a service like Dteckt you can see when they have a Data Breach and take action.
Skimming is when a bad actor steals your credit card information from a brick and mortar location like a gas pump or an ATM. This is one of the reasons why credit card chips are better than sliding your credit card. Use a chip when possible. This is another example of where a consumer is at a disadvantage. Preventing Skimming falls on an organization. The best you can do is be aware, use a chip, monitor your organization’s security and privacy performance, and subscribe to finance and identity monitoring.
7. Shoulder Surfing
Sometimes it’s as simple as a bad actor learning your password by watching over your shoulder. Stay aware of odd surroundings, don’t leave sensitive information where people can see it, and take care when typing in passwords or sensitive information you wouldn’t want a stranger to know.
Malicious software on your computer or mobile device is extremely common. If you don’t already have Anti-Virus, you really need to use one. There are many free offerings available or even premium offerings that give better visibility and protection.
Malware is often installed by opening an email attachments or visiting an infected website.
Signs That You May Be The Victim Of Identity Theft
Watch out for the following signs that indicate whether or not you may be the victim of identity theft.
- Unknown charges on your credit or debit cards.
- Unexpected changes in your credit scores.
- New accounts opened in your name that wasn’t initiated by you.
- Unexpected debt collection notices.
- You child gets credit card offers.
- You start to receive calls from debt collectors about late payments.
- Unable to e-file because someone else has already filed under that Social Security number.
- IRS notice or letter referencing activity you know nothing about.
- IRS records saying you worked for an employer that you did not.
- Claims or payments on your insurance explanation of benefits that you do not recognize.
- An email, letter, or text from your financial institution that refers to an action or transaction you don’t recognize. Be careful with this one as phishing emails often come through in this form.
- Being detained by a police officer for reasons that are unclear to you.
- Being denied employment or a promotion because of something found in a background check.
Reporting And Recovering From Identity Theft
- We’ll stay quick and to the point.
- Report at IdentityTheft.gov or 877-438-4338.
- Report it to your local Police Department. Provide the IdentityTheft.gov as evidence.
- Place a fraud alert with all 3 credit bureaus. Google search “[credit bureau name] fraud alert”.
- Contact any company involved, i.e. where you notice something odd occurring – banks, mortgage lenders, medical insurance companies, etc.
- Freeze your Credit if it isn’t already.