Rich or poor, hackers want your information

Americans think only rich people get their identity stolen. That’s not the case.

“As long as you have been on the grid and you have a Social Security number … that information makes you susceptible to hackers,” says Michael Bruemmer, VP of identity protection at Experian. “With a social and an address, they can create accounts.”

Most people — 72 percent — think identity thieves are only interested in stealing wealthy people’s information, according to a survey of 1,000 Americans done by Experian, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. In reality, it’s a chronic condition.

Most know about the risk but do little to protect themselves

While many people understand identity theft, they feel too helpless to do anything about it, the survey found.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents feel it’s too much of a hassle to constantly worry about securing personal information online, according to the study, and that mentality makes people and companies much more vulnerable.

“Human error is the biggest problem,” says Bruemmer. “80 percent of data breaches have a link to employee negligence.”

Roughly 53 percent say staying on top of financial transactions is a challenge, and 48 percent don’t even check their credit reports regularly for errors or suspicious activity.

The majority of people feel safe from identity theft because banks and credit card companies monitor their accounts.

One in ten respondents said that because they don’t have any money or have bad credit, they don’t feel they will become victims of identity theft.

“Consumers seem to be tuning out rather than tuning in,” says Bruemmer.

There is no easy fix

More than half — 52 percent — of respondents said they were the victim of identity theft or knew someone who had been. Of those, 55 percent said it took between a week and a year to resolve their issue.

“Let’s say you lose your credit card, that’s one of the easiest things to fix,” Bruemmer says. They just cancel the card and issue you a new one in the mail, often overnight if needed. “But if you go into a bank and say there’s someone that has taken over my account, that’s a much bigger problem.”

Other information that thieves look for includes medical records and tax information, Bruemmer says.

“There’s been lots of W2 forms that have been compromised,” he says. “The IRS generally takes 90 days or 6 months to resolve those issues. If you’re trying to do that yourself on top of a full time job, you don’t have hours to track down people in the IRS.”

Prevention

Here are some simple tricks Bruemmer advises people use to protect themselves from identity theft.

  • Check your credit report regularly at Annualcreditreport.com. (It’s free once a year per credit bureau. Don’t be fooled by fakes that charge you.)
  • Use mobile banking to track your transactions.
  • Password protect all of your devices with two-factor authentication and use longer passwords or a password manager.
  • Never use any public Wi-Fi. “Your data on a public Wi-Fi connection can be taken easily,” he says.
  • Never click on any links that you don’t recognize or from people you don’t know.
  • Don’t put any personal information on your social media accounts.

Bruemmer hopes that the more people who use these tips, the more conscious the public will be toward a threat.

“I don’t know if there is enough awareness from the general consumer,” Bruemmer says. This survey “points out that there is a real gap in the awareness.”

News, Tech

identity theft, IRS, scams

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Article last modified on June 26, 2017. Published by Debt.com, LLC .