Identity theft can happen even through your phone.

Who is to blame for identity theft? Look in the mirror

My buddy uses the same password and PIN for all his smart phone apps, including a banking app. I didn’t think much of it when he told me, “It’s easier to remember all of them that way.”

Apparently he’s not the only one. A new survey by LifeLock, a company that provides identity theft protection, claims 40 percent of smart phone users don’t understand cyber security enough to protect themselves.

And yet another study says 12.6 million consumers were affected by identity fraud in 2012, “which equates to 1 victim every 3 seconds.” That’s from Javelin Strategy & Research, which goes on to say this: “Fraudsters stole nearly $21 billion, the highest amount since 2009.”

This brainless behavior doesn’t stop with smart phones. Experian’s ProtectMyID reveals consumers are still at high risk for identity theft because they don’t even practice simple safeguards for their own protection.

What the hell are we thinking?

Especially given the fact that most of us would scream to the high heavens if a business messed up and lost our personal information — and as a matter of fact, most of us do just that. Yet another survey, this one by Cintas, a uniform manufacturer, says, “two thirds of U.S. adults would not return to a business if their personal information was stolen.”

But Bob Sullivan, president of LifeLock competitor Credit Power, isn’t surprised by the lack of consumer desperation to protect their identity. Says Sullivan…

“People are inherently trusting. They mostly trust their electronic devices, the companies they buy from, and the efforts those companies put forth to protect their information. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who prey on that trust, and without the proper safeguards in place a consumer’s identity is in serious risk.”

So what can we do to protect ourselves from ourselves?

1. Check out what the Federal Trade Commission has to say about identity theft.

For example…

• Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you’ve initiated the contact or know who you’re dealing with
• Wipe out the information on your computer before you throw it away
• Think of special passwords and don’t overuse passwords
• Limit the personal information you use on social networks

2. Use a password manager

If you have several passwords to contend with you can download a product like Roboform for free. These managers help you organize PIN codes and passwords. Depending on the site, they can automate the entry of passwords and form-filling.

3. Use a full-blown service to protect your identity

If you don’t mind paying a few bucks for services, check out LifeLock or Credit Power. Sullivan believes they’re worth the price:”These services provide a level of comfort and insurance against a catastrophic loss. What little you pay is dramatically offset by the peace of mind and protection you receive.”

Now I think I’ll call my buddy who uses the same passwords and tell him to read this article.

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