Identity fraud is at an all time high. Last year alone, Javelin’s survey reported more than 16.7 million people were affected by identity fraud. This is an increase over the past year by one million users of non-card fraud and account takeovers. When it comes to online thefts, many of us don’t understand all the ways that hackers are trying to steal our personal information. Just when we feel like we understand the threats, new techniques seem to discovered. I think it is safe to say that identity theft schemes aren’t going away any time soon so it is important to educate ourselves on the ways we can avoid falling victim.
If you are like most people, they worry that a few pieces of their personal information could be compromised at any given time. Now, it isn’t uncommon for criminals to be able to get your name, address, previous addresses, social security number, and passwords to open online accounts in your name. Fraudulent schemes are taking on a whole new approach and we have to get better at understanding how our actions online, could put us at risk. In order to bring awareness to this very serious situation, the Better Business Bureau has named April 28th as “National Secure your ID Day”.
7 Ways to Lower Risk of Identity Fraud
Here are 7 things you can do today, to lower your risk of identity fraud:
- Turn on two-factor authentication: Two-factor authentication is mostly used by banks or other financial institutions. They ask you to verify your identity by receiving a text message or email when you are trying to log into your device. Using two-factor authentication makes it a lot harder for fraudulent activity to happen on your account when you have this feature set up.
- Place password protect on your devices: Malware doesn’t infect only your computer. Now that an increasing amount of commerce is conducted via phone and other mobile devices, new viruses aim at them. Treat your mobile devices with the same care that you use to guard your desktop or laptop. Secure them with passwords, security software and encrypt any stored data.
- Add a Freeze or lock to your identity: If you don’t plan on opening a new account or applying for a loan any time soon, you should consider putting a freeze on your identity with the credit bureaus to lower your risk of being attacked. The freeze will prevent hackers from trying to open up a new account in your name. There is a nominal fee associated with this service. If you need to lift the freeze, some of the bureaus allow you to do it on your phone. They call this “lock and alert” service.
- Enable alerts: An increasing number of companies allow consumers to put alerts on their accounts when transactions exceed a certain dollar amount, which could allow you to spot fraud before it got out of control. These alerts can be sent by email or text making notifications immediate and timely.
- Protect yourself: Unfortunately, there isn’t a sure fire way to protect yourself online, but by taking a few measures, your chances of being scammed can be considerable lowered. It is important that consumers monitor their accounts regularly and notify the authorities when something is detected. The quicker you notify someone, the lower the amount of risk there will be to you.
- Beware of public WI-FI – Public WI-FI doesn’t encrypt data which makes it easy for hackers to access the information you send when you are on a non-protected Wi-Fi network. They can commit identity fraud if they have access to your personal information you are sending it online. Make sure you are using secure web browsing when you are using the internet to keep your information safe.
- Watch out for phishing scams – Phishing scams are on the rise. Watch out for people on the phone that ask you for your personal information. Scammers will most often times make themselves appear to be official or trustworthy. The main goal with these scams is to get personal information from you. Don’t fall victim to this.
No one can protect ourselves 100 percent to identity fraud, but if you take a few precautions, you can secure your personal information so you can reduce the risk. If you or someone you know feels like they have been compromised, report it immediately to IdentityTheft.gov. You can also report identity fraud to your local police department.