Identity Theft Has Evolved: Are You Prepared?
Consumers have been hearing about fraud and identity theft for years. As our society becomes increasingly digitized, scammers are finding more ways to rip people off. Identity thieves are hard at work looking to exploit and steal as much as they can from unsuspecting consumers. And this year, there are some new dangers to be on the lookout for.
In the past, we’ve written extensively about many of the steps that consumers should take to guard their identity. Here is a quick review of some important tips we’ve covered in previous years:
Beware of copycat phishing emails that appear to be from well-known retailers;
Be careful what websites you shop at as there are many clones of legitimate websites;
Use credit cards rather than debit cards for shopping as they are easier to reverse fraudulent charges;
Be careful what information you send through a public WiFi connection;
Review your financial accounts regularly (every couple of days at least);
Update the security software on your computer regularly;
Be careful about entering online contests as they are often phishing scams and sources of computer viruses;
Learn, understand, and utilize the privacy settings on social media sites and apps you use.
In addition to the aforementioned dangers, there are some new threats that consumers should be aware of. This is largely the result of criminals adapting to new technology. One prime example is the new chip-enabled credit and debit cards. Chip-enabled cards have made it far more difficult for criminals to use stolen card information at a retail store. This has given rise to more “card not present” (e.g., online) fraud using stolen credit card numbers or credit card accounts opened in the victim’s name.
Another way that thieves are adapting is by breaking into cell phone accounts or opening cell phone accounts in the name of the victim to defeat the two-factor authentication firewall. Many privileged accounts, such as email accounts, bank accounts, credit card accounts, satellite and cable TV services, and many others are now using two-factor authentication, which requires that an SMS text be sent to your cell phone with a verification code to access the account. By getting a hold of the victim’s cell phone account, they can intercept the text and gain access to these accounts and the treasure trove of information that lies within.
Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft
Cyber criminals are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Not only are they going after consumers’ data in more creative ways, they also continue to routinely break into the databases of major companies, thus exposing their customers’ private data to identity thieves. One of the most recent examples was the 2017 Equifax Data Breach, which reportedly exposed the Social Security numbers of more than 146 million consumers. If one of the major credit bureaus, which holds all of our most sensitive information, can get hacked, then no one is truly safe from the threat of identity theft. The best we can do is employ best practices to stay safe, closely monitor our credit activity, and take swift action if any fraudulent activity is detected.
Unfortunately, it is hard enough for the average consumer just to employ safe practices. It is virtually impossible to monitor our credit activity at all times. This is why services like LegalShield were created. LegalShield is a comprehensive identity protection service that monitors your Social Security number and other private information, court records, bank accounts, credit and debit card accounts, and social media accounts for suspicious activity.
The service is relatively inexpensive, with individual plans starting at $9.95/month and family plans starting at $24.95/month. This makes it affordable for individuals, and an ideal employee benefit for all types of organizations. Every employee needs an ID theft prevention plan, and employers who provide easy access to this type of service are more likely to have a happier and more loyal workforce.