Generally, I am writing articles on steps that businesses can take to protect themselves against internal and external thieves. This time, I am going to write about the fastest growing crime in America — Identity Theft, and ways that YOU, and your family and friends can reduce the risk of becoming a victim.
First, let’s take a snapshot look at this crime:
(1) The latest statistics available show that the number of identity fraud victims increased to 13.1 million, or up 500,000 in comparison to the number reported in 2012.
(2) Every two seconds, another American falls victim to identity fraud.
(3) Javelin Strategy & Research reports that data breaches were one of the main sources of fraud last year, with one in three people who received notifications of a data breach discovering their identities were used for fraudulent means.
The really bad news is that we’re all vulnerable to identity theft!
Of those victimized in 2013:
43 percent of fraud victims were reached through email;
21 percent were telephoned;
20 percent were defrauded through a website.
The good news is that you can reduce or minimize the risk of becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud. Since the majority (43%) of fraud victims were reached through email, I will offer a few considerations to help prevent you from being victimized through emails:
- Select good passwords and PINs.
- Choose words and numbers that no one would be able to guess, even if they were privy to other parts of your personal information. Or, use words and numbers that are familiar to you, but disguise them in a hard-to-guess code. There are randomly-generated password programs online that provide virtually unbreakable passwords.
- Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. Vary the passwords from account to account.
- Protect your computer. Don’t fall for phone calls from someone representing themselves to be from sites such as Microsoft security, telling you they need to checkout a problem on your computer.
- Beware of phishing scams. These involve seemingly harmless emails being sent to you, asking you to verify certain things such as passwords, account numbers, or credit/social security details. Any email seeking any information of this type should be an immediate red flag. The best response is for you to contact the service provider directly and confirm the legitimacy.
- Use caution when shopping online. Check that the site is legitimate; never go to a site from an unsolicited email and commence to make purchases. Go directly to the desired site through a known URL or by locating it using a search engine.
- Never answer unsolicited or unwanted emails. A return email verifies your existence to a would-be fraudster and opens the door to many spyware and key-logger programs that are designed compromise your computer, so the fraudster can gather as many passwords and sensitive data as possible.
- There’s much more YOU can do to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of identity fraud and theft. In my next Blog posting, I will address those identity fraud risks most often associated with telephones, smart-phones and websites.
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