Rising Identity Theft & Vulnerability – What Can You Do?

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Identity theft is more common than you might think. It’s so prevalent and costly that identity theft was the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission in the recent past.

It’s an issue you should take seriously because if your information gets compromised, your life can get turned upside down. Your credit score can get destroyed. Your bank accounts can become empty. You can wind up with thousands of dollars of debt under your name. Therefore on your credit report and credit score.

New Data Breaches Reveal Need for Enhanced Security

Consumers are aware of how vulnerable they are to privacy violations by companies they trust. Now that the Equifax data breach has settled, awareness is increasing rapidly.

You have to ensure proper security protocols are in place to validate the identity and compliance requirements. You can reach out to Au10tix solutions and have identity verification done within a few minutes. It will ensure a smooth onboarding process for your clients while adhering to the security guidelines,

To protect yourself from falling victim to identity theft in light of these major breaches:

  • Check your credit report regularly (Try Free Credit Report™)
  • Use monitoring services that alert you when suspicious activity occurs (Identity Theft Protection)

Biggest Data Breaches in History

Equifax, a credit reporting company, announced in September 2017 that it had discovered a data breach from May to July of that year. The following March, the company confirmed that the personal information of 148 million people was compromised. This information included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and other sensitive details.

The Marriott Starwood reservations system experienced a four-year cyberattack between 2014 and 2018 across eight brands. It included W Hotels, St. Regis, and Westin, exposing the information of approximately 500 million guests in 53 countries.

In addition to the usual tranche of stolen data like names and addresses, passport numbers got compromised in some cases.

Yahoo faced a series of hacking incidents between 2013 and 2016. The most recent of which reached around 3 billion user accounts at once. Personal information like email addresses and passwords got stolen with proprietary data like financial documents and questions used for security purposes on Yahoo accounts.

How to Protect Yourself Online?

With all the talk about data breaches and identity theft, you may be wondering what you can do to keep your personal information safe. First things first: Keep your passwords strong and change them reasonably often.

You can create a unique password for every site you use. If it’s easy for someone to guess, then a hacker will probably have an easier time guessing the answer too, making your password useless for security purposes.

You can use that same password on multiple sites, so if one gets hacked, another will still be available in case the hacker tries to steal your data again from that site as well.

You can use two-factor authentication on as many sites as possible. It means having something in addition to just a password whenever you log in through an online service or website such as Facebook or Gmail. 

This extra layer of security usually works by asking you for a code that only shows up on your phone (or even through text messages) if it’s you logging into the account. Without it, accessing the account won’t let you in.

Social Media Platforms Are Vulnerable

Social media can be a fun and useful tool, but it does come with some disadvantages. Social media sites store personal information and share it across their platforms, which makes the sites themselves vulnerable to attacks that expose your data to hackers. 

These hacks happen frequently, but they’re often not publicized in the news. For example, in June of 2018, Facebook admitted that a hack had exposed 50 million accounts’ access tokens to hackers. An access token is essentially a key to your account; if someone has one of your access tokens, they can sign right into your account without needing your password!

Keep Your Sensitive Information Safe

You can avoid leaving your devices unattended. It means not only locking your computer and phone but physically removing them from public access. Many break-ins occur when someone gains access to a device left in an insecure location, like a hotel room or unlocked car. 

Also, be aware of how you dispose of your tech. Throwing away computers and hard drives can lead to information getting stolen if they end up in the wrong hands.

You can be mindful of what you post on social media platforms. It can be anything that includes your home address or GPS coordinates from photo metadata. The embedded data indicates the location of the picture. It can be something as simple as tagging yourself at home or at work, which essentially gives away the locations of those places for everyone to see.

You can use strong passwords that are difficult to guess and difficult for hackers to steal through password cracking programs. Ideally, this involves using a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters that are unique enough not to be associated with any usernames you use online. 

What to Do if You Become a Victim of Identity Theft?

The first thing to do after realizing you have been a victim of identity theft is to place a fraud alert on your credit report. It will prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name. 

You can call one of the three main credit bureaus and request that a fraud alert be placed on your records. Then, from the same credit agencies, obtain copies of your credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you are unsure who has accessed your identity, obtain copies of all three reports to investigate any fraudulent activities.

Precautions to Avoid Identity Theft

You can use credit cards instead of debit cards. Since a debit card is linked directly to your bank account, identity thieves can drain your entire savings if they gain access. Credit cards aren’t automatically connected to your bank account and usually have limits on how much you are liable for in fraudulent transactions.

You can be wary of phishing scams, particularly on social media and other online platforms. However, also through text messages, phone calls, and emails. Identity thieves will often pose as banks or other institutions with whom you conduct business to collect personal information.  

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