Identity theft is a growing problem around the globe. The more information people are willing to store in “the cloud” the more susceptible you are to the new breed of criminals. Cyber Criminals never have to actual see you or even be in the same state let alone the same country as you to steal your money, important documents and your identity.
Phishing refers to attempts by cyber criminals to capture your personal information by fishing for it on your hard drives or your email address. The tactic takes on many different forms, but the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) defines its inner workings as follows:
"A typical phishing scam starts with an email that appears to originate from a reputable source (bank, lender, or credit card company), with a common theme that often warns of serious intrusion activity on your accounts that requires immediate action. You are then redirected to a phony website that looks like a legitimate web page. Here you are encouraged to enter your sensitive information, and the thieves gain all they need."
If you've already been the victim of this typical phishing scam, or believe that identity theft has occurred on one or more of your private accounts, there are measures you can take to combat identity theft.
USA.gov recommends many different measures you can take to prevent your identity from being stolen. Here are a few examples of what they recommend:
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
- Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for several days.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Order your credit report once a year and review to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
There are proactive steps you can take to protect yourself and your information going forward. First and foremost, download the latest antivirus and antispyware programs available to your desktop, laptop, and mobile devices to make sure your information is protected regardless of what device you are using.
Also, take the time to download and use secure payment devices. If your banking institution doesn't already offer credit card with the new encrypted chips in them, ask for one. EMV cards have helped reduce counterfeiting by 60-80% since their introduction.
Finally, you're entitled to one free credit report annually, so you should take advantage of that knowledge. Stay on top of your credit report with Annualcreditreport.com and check it every time you receive one. If any unfortunate security threats are found alert the appropriate authorities as soon as possible.