Why You Should Make Protecting Your Identity a Priority

identity protection

A majority of consumers are concerned about identity theft but are not taking the necessary measures to protect their identities. A 2017 Experian survey found that while 73 percent of respondents were concerned about online hacks, only 53 percent were taking steps to increase their security.

Concern over privacy and security online and offline is insufficient to prevent identity theft. It is necessary to recognize risks and take proactive measures. Here are several reasons to prioritize protecting your identity paired with practical measures you can take today.

The Number of Records Exposed Increases Every Year

Most identity theft results from data breaches, and the number of records exposed increases every year. The Identity Theft Resource Center 2018 Data Breach Report identified 1,244 breaches in 2018, down 23% from 1,632 breaches in 2017. Even though this sounds like good news, the reported number of records containing personally identifiable information increased 126% between 2017 and 2018 after a 389% increase between 2016 and 2017.

While it is not possible for you to prevent breaches, there are several measures you can take to protect your sensitive personal information. Only create accounts or shop online at trusted retailers. Breaches can also affect physical retailers, so be aware of where you shop and which methods of purchase you use. Keeping a close eye on financial records and credit reports can help you spot identity theft sooner rather than later.

You should also use complex and unique passwords for each online account to prevent a single breach from compromising multiple accounts. Use a secure password manager to keep track of these passwords rather than enabling devices to sign in to services automatically. You should also keep track of the accounts you have and close any unused accounts to prevent personal information from being needlessly exposed during a breach.

Ecommerce Is Resulting in More Fraud

identity theft online

Ecommerce fraud increased by more than 30% from 2016 to 2017. Another way to gauge the increase of this type of fraud is to look at the rise of holiday shopping fraud. According to ACI worldwide, the number of ecommerce transactions during this time of year was expected to increase more than 18% in 2018, with a 14% increase in online fraud attempts. Whereas only one transaction out of 109 was identified as a fraudulent attempt back in 2015, the rate increased to one out of 85 in 2016, and fraud is expected to continue to become more common.

You should monitor recent orders on online shopping services and regularly review financial statements to identify any unauthorized purchases. If you notice signs of fraudulent activity, contact the vendor and financial companies. It’s a good idea to use strong, unique passwords for each online shopping account and close any unused accounts.

Identity Theft Can Affect Every Area of Your Life

When your identity is stolen, a thief may be able to take information and use it to gain access to more accounts or open new accounts with your Social Security number. Some fraud attempts may only impact certain vendor or financial accounts, while others may have a more extensive impact on your credit, taxes and benefits.

According to the 2018 ITRC Aftermath study, 85.% of respondents reported feeling anger and frustration, and 69.4% reported feelings of distrust and a lack of safety. The 2017 Aftermath study found that 26% had to borrow money from family or friends, and 22% took time off work as a result of identity theft. The physical and psychological toll of identity theft can be life-changing.

The goal for identity theft prevention and response should be to limit damage. Make sure that every account has complex and unique login information and use two-factor authentication whenever possible. If you share information on social media, it may be easier for thieves to guess password verification answers or impersonate you in interactions with account services.

After your information becomes compromised, you should notify financial institutions and the credit bureaus. It may be worthwhile to freeze your credit to try to prevent new accounts from being opened or applications from being processed.

Most Consumers Don’t Realize Their Identity Has Been Stolen

The average amount of time before identity theft is detected is about three months, according to the 2017 ITRC Aftermath Study. Approximately 16% of victims did not discover that their information was compromised for three years. Persistent monitoring of financial accounts, credit reports, and records maintained by other data brokers can shorten the length of time between incidents of fraud and reporting.

The sooner you realize that identity theft has occurred, the more measures you can take to limit the harm that can be done. If fraud takes place on a particular service, you should report it to the service within hours if possible. Notify financial accounts and consider placing a fraud alert or freeze on credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission recommends that victims file complaints through an online identity theft database. Contact at least one of the three major credit bureaus, which will then be obligated to notify the other two bureaus to ask them to place alerts on your file. 

Your Online Presence May Compromise Your Privacy and Security

privacy and security

Many individuals do not realize that the information posted on social media may compromise their personal privacy and security. Regularly check your privacy settings and carefully review updated terms of service agreements. You should also be wary of accepting friend requests from unknown users on social media, where thieves may access information that could make your security questions easier to answer. This information may also enable a thief to craft more personalized spear-phishing emails or messages. The increased visibility that comes with being a popular social-media user can increase your risk of identity theft.

These are a few reasons why consumers should take immediate action to protect their identities. Proactive, preventative measures are easier to implement than protective measures after personal information has been compromised. If your identity has been stolen, Lexington Law Firm excels at handling credit bureau challenges to help you restore your credit. Contact us today for a free personalized credit consultation to see how we can help you.  

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Sources: Experian |IDTheftCenter | ExperianACIWorldwide| IDTheftCenter | IDTheftCenter | IdentityTheft.gov | DigitalGuardian