Computers, Technology and ID Theft
Protecting your identity in a digital and mobile world.
Technology didn’t create identity theft. Before computers, cell phones, hot spots, and the internet, thieves could snag your drivers license, steal your social security number and use your identity to run up debt in your name.
At the same time though, identity theft has gotten more prevalent and more widespread thanks to technology. After all, the more convenient it is to shop and bank online, the more personal information you’re storing electronically – and the more opportunities fraudsters have to profit.
Fact: In 2012, about 7% of Americans over 16 were victims of identity theft at some point during that year.
Keeping your identity safe online
To be totally honest, with today’s savvy ID theft techniques, your information can be compromised even if you take every possible to protect your identity. Data breaches by companies, swipe scams like what occurred to Target in 2013, and new practices that thieves are evolving all the time make everyone a potential victim.
On the other, lots of theft cases involve people just not being careful enough and giving thieves too much opportunity.
How can you tell that you’re shopping on a secure website?
a) It says “secure encryption” somewhere on the sales page
b) You have to create a private account to start shopping
c) The web address bar is green and the website address (URL) starts with https://
d) It’s a company that you are familiar with and trust as a real provider
c) The web address bar is green and the website address (URL) starts with https:// – in fact, the “s” in the URL stands for “secure”
Here are some tips to keep you safe:
- Use unique passwords for all of your accounts
- Make sure passwords can’t be easily used – and for the love of credit, don’t use Password1 (or something equally ridiculous)!
- Change your passwords frequently – ideally, every few months or so
- Don’t leave accounts open online if you don’t use them – especially if they contain any personal info or financial data
- Never, ever email your social security number, driver’s license number or and bank or credit card account numbers
- Don’t trust email that asks for the above info – it’s a phishing scam
- Shop only secure websites
- Don’t give someone access to any financial accounts you have online, including PayPal – this happens a lot more than you’d think, especially if you’re letting someone sell stuff on your eBay account
Fact: About 85% of all fraud cases involve the fraudulent use of a legitimate existing account.
Connectivity means opportunity
Another big problem tech has caused for people is they aren’t paranoid enough on public networks… seriously, in this one situation, paranoia is probably a good thing.
Ever have the feeling you’re being watched? Well if you’re on a public network of any kind (a network at your office, an unsecured wireless server in your house, or a mobile hotspot) then yes, there’s at least some change someone is watching you.
Being too careful online means there’s less chance for your identity to be stolen. Not being careful enough, means filing an identity theft claim, paying for a protection service and dealing with the hassle of trying to recoup your losses.
So maybe it’s worth it to be at least a little on edge when you’re online in a public space:
- Don’t bank or shop online using a mobile hotspot… even if it’s your own. They’re too easy to break.
- Password protect your wireless servers for your home
- Try not to shop or bank online at work… just leave it for home
- If you have to bank online at work, at least tell your bank it’s a public network – you usually have this option when you’re verifying your identity to log into your account
- Do not shop or bank online while sitting at your favorite coffee shop, public park, library, etc. Public networks make it too easy to follow your activity!
- Pay attention to scam alerts and subscribe to some kind of service that notifies you of new scams so you can take action early.