According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is the top consumer complaint with 9 million identities reported stolen each year. Identity theft is committed in many ways, from non-technical methods such as stealing purses or “dumpster diving” for old documents containing sensitive data; to technical methods such as deceptive phishing e-mails that include malware containing spyware or Trojan horses.
When it comes to phishing and social engineering scams, scammers use fake email addresses and websites to try to make them look like they are coming from a legitimate organization. They attempt to gain your trust to trick you into divulging personal information. Even if you don’t divulge any info, malware downloaded from clicking suspicious links, downloading fake apps or attachments, or visiting suspicious websites can still penetrate your computer and install keystroke loggers to steal data or capture account credentials as you type them.
What Happens When Your Identity Is Stolen In A Data Breach?
Although there's a lot you can do to protect your identity, some things are out of your control. Even if you've been careful with your information and are cautious about what you click on or download, that doesn't mean your information is safe from data breaches. Cybercriminals see data breaches as a big payday, as many companies host vast amounts of data about their users online. Some of the most popular types of data breaches are from financial institutions and medical institutions.
We talk a lot about what to do in the event of a data breach, but never about what it’s really like to experience identity theft first hand. If you find out that you have become involved in a data breach, there are many things you can do proactively to protect yourself, including:
- Regularly keep an eye on your credit report for unusual activity. Most companies that are involved in a data breach will offer free credit monitoring for the affected customers. Go to the company’s website to see if they have a plan in place to help their customers stay protected.
- If you do see something strange or unexpected, like a new credit line you didn't open, follow up immediately. You can also put a hold on your credit report through the major credit agencies which will not allow any new accounts to be opened in your name.
- A lot of financial companies offer activity alerts, so look into your accounts and if they have them, sign up for them. If you do receive an alert that is suspicious, or your financial institution reports unusual account activity, respond as soon as possible.
- Use password managers like Norton Identity Safe to autofill login information and bypass keyloggers.
- Transact financial business online only with secure websites with URLs that begin with "https:" or that are authenticated by companies like Symantec.
- Install personal firewall, antivirus, antispyware, and antispam protection-all are available in a single security suite with Norton Security.
- In the physical world, consider investing in a paper shredder to destroy documents with sensitive information on them rather than just throwing them away.
- Finally, report the crime to the proper authorities. Notify local police and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can also use public resources to help to recover your losses and prevent further theft. Your state's attorney general, the Federal Trade Commission, and non-profit identity theft protection organizations can also help provide assistance.
They say that defense is the best offence, so protect your personal information closely. If cybercriminals are unable to get their hands on your sensitive data, they can't defraud you.