Identity Theft Is No Joke: 6 Ways To Protect Yourself Online

Andrew Deen  |

Identity theft was dwindling for years – but once again, it's on the rise. You can protect your financial future by understanding the way that hackers go after your sensitive information.

Unfortunately, many consumers have grown numb to warnings of identity theft due to a seemingly never-ending barrage of marketing messages. Still, nearly 15 million consumers fall victim to identity theft every year.

Fortunately, you can protect your sensitive information.

Hackers Cost Consumers and Businesses Dearly

More than 1,100 data breaches took place in 2018, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Data Breach Report. During those attacks, malicious actors compromised over 561 million consumer records.

The ITRC classifies identity thefts based on industry. Victim categories include:

  • Banking/credit/financial
  • Education
  • Government/military
  • Medical/healthcare
  • Business (including retail, hospitality, tourism, professional and other entities not included in the above four sectors)
  • The business sector was targeted the most by malicious actors in 2018, experiencing 524 breaches and 531,987,008 record compromises. The medical/healthcare sector was the second most targeted cybercrime category, with 334 breach events and 9,033,352 record compromises.

    Surprisingly, malicious actors only targeted the financial sector 122 times in 2018, compromising 1.7 million consumer records. That category was followed by the government/military sector – with 90 breach events and 18,148,442 record compromises.

    As consumers and businesses increasingly adopt technology, the need for online security will rise in tandem. The following are six tips for protecting your identity.

    1. Out of Sight – Out of Mind

    Mailboxes and doorsteps are not safe ways to receive sensitive documents. Any documents containing confidential information should be received at a U.S. Postal Service P.O. Box or similar location with a human layer of security.

    When using public Wi-Fi, keep your sensitive information out of the reach of hackers by avoiding activities such as banking and shopping that require or offer confidential information. Also, avoid publishing information on social media platforms that hackers can mine for answers to account security questions.

    2. Always Keep an Eye on Your Devices

    Most laptops and computers have a preinstalled firewall. Make sure that you use it. Also, keep cybersecurity software such as antivirus, malware and anti-phishing applications up-to-date. There are numerous low cost or free options available.

    Also, you should think beyond your laptop or PC. You should follow the same practices for any internet-connected device, such as your smartphone or tablet.

    3. Don't Feed Into Fake News

    Fake news is now more than a tool to spread political propaganda; it’s a ploy that hackers use to steal sensitive information. Today, hackers spread fake news that includes polls to collect answers to common security questions for online accounts.

    Often, it’s difficult to spot fake news. Before you provide any potentially sensitive information to any online publication, verify the reputation of the publisher. If you can’t figure out who published the poll, don’t enter any information.

    4. Remain Ever Vigilant

    It’s a good idea to pay attention to your monthly credit card and banking statements. However, that’s not enough. Cybersecurity experts recommend that consumers monitor their financial accounts daily.

    Also, reconcile your checkbook to make sure no one’s written unauthorized checks. Identity thieves only need your bank account number to access your funds.

    5. Protecting Your Passwords

    Never share your password to anyone. If exigencies arise when you must share a password, immediately change it at your earliest opportunity.

    Never loan your credit or debit card to anyone. Identity thieves can use the numbers on your card as part of the process for gaining access to an account.

    Only give out the last four digits of your Social Security number – and then only when it’s necessary. Also, exercise caution when entering pins and passwords into any device. Make sure no one’s looking when you do.

    6. Hope for the Best – but Plan for the Worst

    You should prepare a file that includes information that you’ll need if you’re a victim of identity theft. For example, your identity theft file should consist of:

    • Credit reports
    • Passwords
    • Potential identity theft evidence
    • Privacy notices
    • Security breach notices

    You should also keep photocopies of important documents – such as your driver's license, credit cards and membership cards – in case these items are lost or stolen.

    If a thief steals your sensitive information, it's essential to act quickly. Contact all the institutions in your identity theft file, and report any compromised accounts.

    Remain calm, and don't give in to the temptation to sign up for additional identity protection – unless one of your financial institutions offers the service for free as a part of the identity theft recovery process. By acting quickly, you can mitigate the damage of identity theft.

    Equities Contributor: Andrew Deen

    Source: Equities News

    DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of equities.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions. To read our full disclosure, please go to: http://www.equities.com/disclaimer

    I, or a firm that employs me, am a holder of the following securities securities mentioned in this article : none

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