Misconceptions about Identity Theft and Fraud
Preventing hackers from attacking computer systems is all but impossible. Arming ourselves with knowledge and good habits keep our personal information safe from bad guys. Below are some of the most common misconceptions about identity theft:
Identity theft is victimless.
People assume credit card companies can quickly reimburse them for their losses. TransUnion estimates it takes the average victim around $500 and 30 hours to resolve and identity theft. A single case of identity theft can destroy a company, cost investors billions, and even erase a family’s life savings. It can take 30 or more days for a credit card companies to acknowledge disputed charges. Often times it takes longer to resolve it. Identity theft victims during that time period receive ridiculous amounts of calls from collection agencies. This can be a difficult and extremely stressful process.
Identity theft is only a financial crimes.
Don’t assume criminals are only after your hard-earned money. A lot of criminals have additional motives, for example:
Criminal identity theft happens when a person false or stolen identification to evade law enforcement.
Medical identity theft, becoming increasingly rampant, involves a criminal lying to receive medical treatment and insurance benefits.
Employment fraud involves using stolen Social Security numbers to secure a job and benefits.
Identifying information can be used in a combination of crimes. Understand the risks.
My personal information (address, telephone number, email, etc.) is not so useful.
Thieves will manipulate any information they have at their disposal. Shared or “public” information is easy to obtain. Things like “sharing” on social media that you are taking a vacation, could tip a criminal with your address to break into your home.
How many accounts use your email address as your username? Combined with other sensitive information, thieves can access your important information. To keep all of your sensitive information safe, get in habit of providing information on a need-to-know basis. Businesses tend to ask for personal information they do not need. Stop over sharing.
Social media is safe.
Social media is a part of daily life. Selfies, check-ins, and new friends help define our online identities. Harvested by thieves, these details are used to disrupt your life. Check-ins and vacation photos alert criminals to your locations. Your mother’s maiden name can be used to unlock personal account questions. Protect yourself, avoid making information “public,” even if it is “harmless”. Control your online identity by adopting strict privacy settings on social media.
Identity theft criminals don’t know their victims.
Credit card theft largely comes as a result of a massive, publicized data breaches. Identity theft also can be caused by trusted friends, family, and coworkers.
Medical identity theft occurs when family members “share” insurance accounts. Child identity theft can result from parents abusing their children’s credit score. Older adults fall victim to caregivers and “friends” who abuse their trust. Use caution when sharing usernames, passwords, or financial account information.
I know if my information was compromised.
Check credit card statements on a monthly basis. Thieves want to open and abuse new accounts that never appear on current statements. Cyber criminals are aware when you’re offered a free credit report. Remain vigilant over your identity. Request a credit report from each of the three major bureaus, at least once a year. For extra protection request a credit report every four months.
Small businesses have fewer worries.
Dozens of small business breaches that never make the headlines. Hackers understand small businesses do not have the time or resources dedicated to cyber security. Small business become aggressively targeted by cyber attacks. Take the appropriate steps to secure your business from inside and outside threats.
*Research companies and their policies before sharing payment methods and personal data.
Identity theft mostly occurs online.
Data breaches add to the growing number of victims affected by identity theft. Many cases however have no ties to the Internet. A stolen wallet, checkbook, or Social Security card can trigger the identity theft recovery process. Stolen credit cards can be skimmed at gas stations or a restaurant. Thieves are known to go into dumpsters to steal discarded information. Criminals will also steal mail out of unlocked mailboxes. The best place for sensitive information is in a safe in your home.
My antivirus keeps away hackers.
Antivirus software is important for keeping computer and personal information safe. Antivirus programs cannot prevent all cyber threats. Antivirus programs detect a fraction of known malware and viruses. Antivirus software only protects against known attacks.
Phishing scams and dormant viruses can compromise devices and personal information. Test antivirus software often, and check for updates. Understand it can’t single-handedly protect your information.
Theres nothing I can do about identity theft.
Identity theft and data breaches may make it seem impossible to be safe. You can take steps to prevent identity theft online and offline. Be careful about information you share online. Shred mail and documents with account information. Do not carry your Social Security number. Check your credit report, three times a year and report errors. Request your medical history and report errors. Opt out of junk mail and register for the National Do Not Call Registry. Invest in an identity theft protection service. Keep your computer and devices updated and protected with antivirus programs and firewalls.
Take an active role in protecting your identity. If something happens, catch it early.