6 Habits Putting You at Risk for Identity Theft (From Frontier.com home)
Editor’s Note: The article below was published by NBC News Digital on its website.
By Emily Long
Data breaches and hacks are often unavoidable, but security
experts say there are some everyday habits that put
consumers even more at risk.
According to a report by Javelin Strategies, U.S. residents
lost $16.8 billion to fraudsters in 2017, and the number of
victims increased 8 percent over the previous year.
Unfortunately, identity thieves are getting smarter, which
means consumers have to be even more vigilant when it comes to protecting their personal
information and their financial well-being. Thieves are launching more complex schemes, but
consumers also don’t think twice about many common practices that put their data — and their money
— at risk.
SIX COMMON HABITS TO BREAK
passwords for each account, change your passwords often, and keep track of your logins with a
password manager app.
2. You avoid checking banking and credit card statements on a regular basis
Checking your account balances isn’t always fun, but not doing so
means you could miss fraudulent transactions that indicate your
identity has been stolen. You should scan your account statements
and your credit report frequently for purchases you didn’t make and
lines of credit you didn’t request.
“Reviewing your bank accounts, credit card statements and credit reports regularly won’t
necessarily prevent identity theft, but it will help you catch it early before you incur too much
damage,” says Brianna Jensen, an identity theft expert with consumer security site ASecureLife.
Credit card fraud is one of the most common types of identity theft. You are eligible for a free
report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year, so request one every few
months in addition to reviewing other financial statements at least weekly.
3. You overshare on social media and don’t check your privacy settings
Social media is rife with scammers who take advantage of weak
privacy settings to lure you in. Even if you don’t fall victim to a phony
Facebook lottery, thieves can still glean personal information from
your supposedly private profiles. Geotagged photos, birthday posts,
and childhood throwbacks give savvy criminals answers to those
oversimplified security questions and help them impersonate you.
“Don’t share any information with sites unless you are comfortable with that information being
posted on a postcard and sent to your own house,” says Ron Schlecht, managing partner at
cybersecurity firm BTB Security.
Cut thieves off by tightening your privacy settings and limiting what you post.
4. You send sensitive information via email or unsecure messaging services
Nigerian princes aren’t the only ones scamming consumers through
email. If you include account numbers, attach sensitive documents or
simply write things you’d never share publicly, you open yourself up to
identity theft. Even if you have a strong password or use two-factor
authentication to protect your own account, your messages are only
as secure as those you send your information to.Plus, when you delete
messages from Facebook, Slack or email, that data still lives in a place that’s accessible to
thieves who can intercept or hack into accounts or servers.
“Our inbox, sent and deleted folders are treasure troves of sensitive information about
ourselves and our family,” says Mike Fleck, vice president of security at Covata, which provides
data security solutions for businesses. Avoid sending account numbers and sensitive documents
via unencrypted messages.
5. You rarely update your apps and device software
Frequent app updates aren’t just there to annoy you. They actually
patch critical security holes that would otherwise leave your data
vulnerable to hackers and viruses.
“What might have been secure enough yesterday is no longer secure
enough today — sometimes because bugs have been discovered and
sometimes because technologies have evolved,” says Gary McGraw, vice president of security
technology at software security company Synopsys.
If your devices have an automatic update setting, enable it. And if you get a notification that a
new software version is available, address it immediately.
6. You give away too much information — especially when you are in public
There are very few situations that actually require you to provide any
kind of personally identifiable information in public or to someone you
don’t know, so be wary of anyone who requests this.
For example, a telemarketer calls and asks you to confirm your name
and address. You have no way to verify that person’s credentials,
which means you just gave your name and location to a stranger, which they can then use to
piece together your personal profile. Other situations are less sinister but just as risky: You
don’t think twice about providing your credit card number to confirm an appointment or
stating your social security number for your doctor’s office over the phone, but you never know
who is listening nearby.
Before you give away any information, whether in person, over the phone or online, make sure
that it’s absolutely necessary to do so and that your data will be communicated or transmitted
Experts say that data breaches, hack and identity theft are an all-too-common — and often
unavoidable — reality, so consumers should take steps to avoid becoming victims whenever possible.“
The most dangerous habit a person can have is to be too trusting,” says Mark Gazit, CEO of data
analytics provider ThetaRay. Whenever you’re dealing with your financial information and personal
data, “you must assume that you will be hacked.”!