Every year, millions of Americans fall victim to some form of identity theft, an increasingly pervasive problem. As more people shop online, hackers get more sophisticated in their methods, and people become more careless with their private information.
In 2014, the Department of Justice estimated that 17.6 million people over the age of 16 were identity theft victims. We continue hearing new stories of major security breaches: large chains such as Target and Walmart, and even a data breach by one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax. You may already know some ways to protect yourself from identity theft, but you may inadvertently be setting yourself up to become a victim. Here are three ways you may be making yourself vulnerable to identity theft.
No matter how excited you are for your once-in-a-lifetime beach vacation to Tahiti, do not post a photo of your boarding pass on social media. Since most boarding passes contain a barcode with your sensitive information embedded in it, digital thieves can access that information and use it to their advantage.
If you’re the type of person who likes to collect boarding passes, make sure to keep them in a very safe spot in your home or in a journal, and never leave one lying around at the airport or discard it in an airport trash can. The best thing to do with a used boarding pass is to tear it up in a manner that ensures the barcode has been destroyed.
Believe it or not, there’s a market for your medical records, and that includes your medical history. On the dark Web (the “black market” of the digital world), people are waiting to buy your medical information in order to commit different kinds of fraud, including false insurance claims and medication fraud.
While many medical records breaches have been no fault of the patients themselves, it’s possible to protect yourself from this type of theft. Make sure your providers have a security system for record storage, and don’t post any medical information online. Additionally, make sure you keep a close eye on all of your medical bills and payment methods on file. If you see charges for medical services you didn’t receive, call your provider immediately.
Have you ever seen someone in your social circle post very private or sensitive information on Facebook, such as a picture of a new credit card with all the numbers visible? A new driver’s license or passport photo? Believe it or not, these things happen. And even if you think you know all of your friends, it’s still better to err on the side of caution and avoid posting information that can compromise your identity.
It’s also important to make sure your social profiles are secured with strong passwords. Make them as limited to public view as possible. This includes not allowing users you aren’t friends with to view your photos, as these can be easy theft targets for identity thieves.
People steal photos from valid users, then use them to create fake profiles on various social media sites. Vet your online social profiles carefully and only accept friend or follow requests from people you know in real life. If you choose to befriend strangers on the Internet for business networking, seriously limit the amount of private information you post.