Do you feel that your identity is protected? This is a very important question to ask yourself, but maybe you have not given your identity protection enough thought. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that millions of Americans have their identities stolen each year. Additionally, according to Security Magazine, identity theft has become the fastest growing type of financial crime in the United States over the last two years. Specifically synthetic identity theft has become especially prevalent.
Synthetic identity theft is when a fraudster combines real information with fabricated credentials to obtain credit cards & banking information. They use this information to spend money before moving on to the next fake identity. The United States has been particularly vulnerable to this type of crime. This is due to U.S. identification system requiring so much personal information, alongside the drastic increase in data & cybersecurity breaches in recent years.
The holiday season can be an especially susceptible time for information leaks, as shoppers become increasingly geared towards buying gifts online. The pandemic has only exacerbated this concern. The increased traffic online can mean hackers have more opportunities to acquire your personal information.
If you would like to create safe habits online, consider these tips:
- Don’t give out personal information over the phone or the Internet unless you know it is going to a secure recipient. Identity thieves may pose as employees of your bank or the Government to gain access to your personal information.
- Don’t include revealing personal details, such as your social security number or birthdate, in any of your account passwords.
- Pay close attention to your bills, and ensure that the charges listed are legitimate.
- Familiarize yourself with the privacy policies of the companies you do business with. Know exactly where your personal information is going and what it is being used for.
While many instances of identity theft can occur online, your identity can also be stolen while you are out and about in your everyday life. Consider these tips to keep yourself safe when shopping in person:
- Exercise caution with your PIN when using ATMs or paying for items.
- Closely examine the ATM/card machine for anything that looks out of the ordinary. “Skimming” devices can copy your card information to make unauthorized purchases.
- Beware of pickpockets! Be sure your identification and credit cards are safely secured when out in public.
- Try to minimize what you carry on you, and don’t carry it around if you don’t need it.
All of these tips and tricks can be helpful in preventing your identity from being stolen. If you fear you may have become a victim of identity theft, visit www.identitytheft.gov for a comprehensive guideline of necessary actions to assist consumers with identity theft issues. Additionally, you can call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1-877-438-4338.