Identity theft has become a global epidemic.
The U.K. fraud prevention service Cifas reported that 500 individual identities are being stolen every day. Also, a record 89,000 identity theft cases were reported in the first six months of 2017.
The 2017 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin tallied $16 billion stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, an increase from $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.
According to the SA Fraud Prevention Service in South Africa, cases of identity theft have risen 200% over the last six years.
Cifas states that the internet is at the centre of the epidemic with more than four in five identity theft crimes being committed online.
Fraudsters steal identities by gathering information like name, address, date of birth and bank account details. Experts say they are increasingly using social media to piece together stolen identities.
Another way they are accessing personal data is by taking out insurance in someone’s name. This crime increased from just 20 cases to more than 2,000 and leads to more serious ID theft crimes.
Criminals still physically steal mail too, hack computers, scam people into giving personal details, shoulder surf, and buy data through the dark web.
Once they have a stolen identity, they can make false loan and credit card applications or access credit cards and online accounts.
Here are 10 ways to better protect your identity.
- In the workplace, equip all hard drives with security safeguards and software. Keep all programs updated and patched.
- Educate staff on good cyber-security work habits, and raise awareness of social engineering scams used by fraudsters.
- Individuals should check privacy settings online and think carefully before sharing personal data online. According to Experian, consumers store an average of 3.4 types of personal identifiable information (PII) online including birth dates, phone numbers, and credit card information.
- Don’t respond to spam, which are fraud emails that promise various benefits and deals but request identifying data too.
- Protect all online accounts containing personal data with strong passwords and security measures including multi-factor authentication.
- Avoid sharing personal or confidential information on public Wi-Fi.
- Be aware of shoulder surfers in public places. Often, they’re watching from a nearby location as individuals punch in telephone calling card numbers, PIN numbers at bank machines, or credit card numbers. They may also stand nearby and simply listen in on a conversation for credit card numbers and other personal information relayed by phone.
- Ignore applications for pre-approved credit cards in the mail. Shred these documents so criminals cannot retrieve them and try to activate the cards. Consider installing a locked mailbox so that any mail put inside cannot be retrieved without the key.
- Enable alerts on financial accounts so notifications are sent when transactions occur.
- Shred all confidential documents when they are no longer needed. In the workplace, partner with a trustworthy document destruction company that provides secure paper and digital destruction services.
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