September 22, 2015

Identity Theft Crimes: Stay Ahead of Targets and Trends

Identity theft crimes remained at the top of the list of consumer complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission – for the 15th consecutive year.

Last year, fraudsters stole $16 billion from 12.7 million U.S. consumers, according to the 2015 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin.

Thieves steal a person’s private information directly or buy it from other information thieves, and then they use it to take money from bank accounts or run up a credit card, or they apply for new credit, a loan, health insurance, or a tax refund. There’s lots of identity theft in business too.

While the importance of information security has become a huge focus around the world, “hackers are highly adept at cracking even the strongest security measures making no one immune, including large companies or government organizations,” as a post at explained it.

Here are some of the current targets and trends in identity theft.

  • Health care organizations. According to a article, patient medical record sold for $251 at one auction while credit card records were selling for 33 cents. Health care organizations are a great source of personal information and increasingly vulnerable to attacks.
  • Small business. Small businesses are attractive targets because scammers know that they generally have larger bank accounts and credit lines than an individual. “All it takes is one employee with a weak password or a lack of skepticism to open the door to criminal activity,” one expert commented.
  • Retailer backlash. Some research shows that breaches can impact consumer behavior. The Javelin study showed that many identity fraud victims in 2014 were wary about shopping at merchants including big box retailers.   
  • Mobile and connected.  As consumers and employees transition more of their work and personal lives to smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices, the crooks target these devices; this year, the experts point to advanced mobile malware. The Internet of Things is also providing new interconnected avenues for hackers.  
  • Passwords. Passwords are reported to be one of the most misused safeguards – whether weak password choices or the same password for multiple accounts.
  • Targeted spam. Thieves are using social media websites to research their victims so they can send emails that include specific details about their life or career, according to A article said that using three or more social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, increases the likelihood of getting your identity stolen by 73%.
  • Old-fashioned methods of identity theft.  Identity thieves still steal mail and dumpster dive behind businesses. They also look for opportunities to steal purses, computers, and cell phones, from hotel rooms, unlocked vehicles, restaurants, and workplaces.

While individuals are encouraged to be more vigilant about protecting their personal information, it is critical that all workplaces prioritize information security to prevent identity theft too. This would include comprehensive security policies, compliance to industry and government privacy laws, up-to-date IT safeguards, a culture of security from the top down, and on-going employee training to keep everyone up-to-date on trends and best practices.

Find out how a document management process controls identity theft risk/impact by protecting confidential information from creation to document destruction and disposal.