NEWS – Identity theft hits millions of victims each year in the United States — and it’s only going to get worse. In 2014, data breaches increased 78 percent from the prior year. Identity theft was the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for the 14th straight year, and some say children and seniors will be targeted more often in the future.
Criminals are getting more advanced and all consumers are increasingly at risk. Fortunately, protection methods like credit monitoring are also growing in sophistication, but everybody needs to make sure they are well-informed about the threat to stay safe.
Learn the common exploits of today’s identity thieves — and how the landscape will continue to change in the months and years ahead.
New Account Fraud
Identity theft expert Jean Chatzky of Fortune magazine breaks down identity theft crime into two categories: the hassle and the heinous. The first is when a criminal gets ahold of your credit card number and runs up a bill. This is temporary and, usually, after a few weeks of headaches, you get the cash back and all is fixed.
The heinous kind of identity theft can be longer lasting and may permanently ruin your financial record. When someone gets all your information and is able to open up a new account in your name — a large line of credit or loan — you may not find out for months or even years. By the time you find out, it’s often too late to repair all the damage. This is why credit monitoring with real-time alerts is becoming a consumer necessity.
As credit card protection improves with the use chips that make forging plastic more difficult, identity thieves will have to get bolder and stop going for the low hanging fruit. They won’t just rip people off by fleecing them for small time buys, but instead truly taking their identity.
This means taking our more loans, filing fraudulent tax returns, and perhaps even applying for jobs in the name of the victim. As a result, consumers must be increasing vigilant to protect vitals like Social Security numbers. Don’t give it out to anyone unless there is an obvious, justifiable reason (like a new job).
More customers are forgoing physical cards and instead paying for purchases with apps like Google Wallet. These services save time and the need to carry a traditional wallet, but the downside risk is real. Unlike with a real object, ID thieves can hack into a phone and steal the information.
This makes taking precautions imperative. Password protection is now longer something that anyone can be lax about. Create strong passwords and don’t write them down anywhere — use your memory.
As with digital wallets, be careful what information you store on cloud services. It’s great for photos and music but this isn’t the place for your tax information or bank statements. This should be common sense, but the more people get used to the using cloud backup, the more it will seem like the place to house all your files.
Instead, be selective and only keep the large documents that need convenient access often on the cloud. Leave the personal, sensitive information at home in a locked file cabinet — just like your parents did.