According to the 2016 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, nearly 13 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. It is no wonder identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes, thanks to savvy hackers and fraudsters, as they continue to target every aspect of our lives, at home, at work, and on the go. It is up to all of us to be proactive as it comes to identity protection.
Here is a Top 5 list of things you can do today to go on the offensive against identity theft:
1. Strong Username and Password: It can take a fraudster no time to crack a password using brute-force attacks depending on the password strength. Ensure that the password you select is as strong as possible by using a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and alternating upper and lower case. Never have the system remember your password, and never reuse the same password on multiple sites. Also, if your provider offers you Two-factor Authentication, take advantage of this additional layer of protection. Two-Factor Authentication combines something you have (token) with something you know (password). Many providers now offer one time passwords on your mobile device for added convenience.
2. Monitor your Account: Make sure you are maintaining vigilance over your accounts—monitoring your statement activity on a routine basis, and at least twice a year, running a credit report. In addition, it is a good idea to “opt-in” to communications with your providers so they can send you email and mobile notifications when account activity is taking place to ensure it is authorized.
3. Be Leary of Unfamiliar Email: Never open an email or attachments from an unknown, or suspicious sender. Fraudsters often use phishing tactics , such as imitating a financial institution or government entity, to get you to supply personal information. Or they will hide malware in an email attachment that they hope you download, allowing the fraudster to spy on your computer activity. If you are not familiar with the sender, the content is not familiar, or questionable, play it safe and hit delete immediately.
4. Watch where you Shop: Hackers will often use technology called skimming to track your payment card information, or they may hack the point of sale terminal itself. Be mindful of where you shop, if the payment terminal looks questionable—don’t use it. If the website you are making a purchase from isn’t encrypted (look for the padlock)—don’t shop there. Also, consider using RFID sleeves for your credit and debit cards to protect them from skimming devices. And never allow a site to retain your credit card information for future purchases, the 30 seconds it takes to reenter the information is worth the peace of mind later.
5. Virus Monitoring: It is no longer about spreading a computer virus to personal computers. For hackers, it is about stealing data that can be later sold on the Black Internet. Look for modern antivirus utilities that can handle Trojans, spyware, adware, ransomware, malware, and more. Keep the silent predators out of your system.
For more information on identity protection measures, contact the Federal Trade Commission.
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