Identity theft and online fraud are at an all-time high. According to a Javelin study, over the past six years over $107 billion has been stolen through identity theft and fraud. Consumers who shop and conduct financial business online are at the highest risk of fraud. Learning to protect your personal information online is everyone’s responsibility in this digital age. This guide will help you protect yourself against identity theft and fraud online.
We live in the age of sharing … everything. Social media is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, and connecting with people globally. Unfortunately, it’s also a favorite tool used by identity thieves. Fraudsters will gather your sensitive information straight from your social media profiles and feeds, and use it to break into your online accounts. In a recent study by Javelin, those who shop online and share activity through social media are 30% more likely to be a victim of identity theft and online fraud. From Facebook alone, identity thieves are privy to your full name, date of birth, hometown, schools you attended, pet names, and your friends and family’s names. That information alone is probably half of your online account info and security questions. Making it easy for them to use your information fraudulently.
One of the best ways to protect your identity through social media is to check the security settings. Make sure your profile is only visible to those you give permission to, like your friend’s list. Don’t accept invites from people you don’t know. Most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, also have a two-factor login feature, so be sure to enable this. If you share pictures of your cute puppy Pickles online, don’t use Pickles as an answer to any online account security questions. These steps will guide you to a safer social media experience without making you a target for criminals.
Shopping Cart Smart
The introduction of the EMV chip on debit and credit cards has lowered the amount of point-of-sale (POS) fraud. In response to this, criminals have shifted more of their focus to online fraud involving e-commerce shopping. They attack vulnerable websites with malware, stealing customer sensitive information. You should only shop from businesses that have e-commerce shopping security. The website should have https:// in its address, which indicates the site you are shopping from has an SSL security certificate. This type of security encrypts data online buyers input into the site to protect it from online threats. Two-factor authentication is an additional protection that requires two forms of identification before a purchase can be made. Sites such as PayPal, Amazon, Google, and Apple have these security features to protect your information at checkout.
Another way to be cart smart is to limit the places you save your card information online. Even though saving your card information seems more convenient than having to pull your wallet out every time you want to shop online, it’s not recommended. If you aren’t purchasing a subscription that has recurring payments, it’s safer to not save your card information at checkout. The fewer places your information is stored means fewer opportunities for criminals to steal it.
V for Vigilance
If you conduct business online, be vigilant by regularly checking your accounts for suspicious transactions. Many financial institutions and credit card companies have transaction alert services. You will receive an email or text message alerting you to activity on your account. For example, you can set up alerts for spending over certain amounts or overseas transactions. Sign up for these services whenever you can. They typically cost little or nothing, so definitely take advantage.
New account fraud has reached an all time high. This occurs when a thief opens a credit card or financial account using a victim’s name and stolen personal information. Signing up for a credit monitoring service is an excellent way to protect yourself from identity theft. These services allow you to track your credit activity in reports issued by the major credit bureaus. Alerts are sent anytime there is a change. In the event a new fraudulent account is opened under your social security number; you can take action quickly and minimize or stop any further fraud. Follow these steps from the Federal Trade Commission to place a fraud alert on your credit report.
Bulk Up Your Passwords
Create strong passwords. You have probably heard this tip a million times before. There is a reason, it is important! The strong password rule applies to everyone. Criminals can crack weak passwords in seconds. A strong password can slow down or can stop identity theft in its tracks. Create strong passwords by mixing up upper and lowercase letters, inserting special characters, and creating long passwords with uncommon words. And for the love of ice cream, you should never use the word “password.” Check out these common password choices to avoid by Dawn Jones, Marine FCU’s VP of Information Systems.
A good rule of thumb is to create a different password for each account you have. Many people may think there are just too many passwords to remember and only rotate between two or three. But, we live in the age of the smartphone, everyone carries around the perfect username and password storage device. Many apps will securely store your sensitive login and password information and will generate strong passwords for you. Taking a lot of the hard work out of creating new passwords all time. Don’t forget to protect your device with a password or fingerprint ID feature. So, throw away that sticky note you used to use, embrace the technology, and protect yourself against identity theft.