Whether it’s credit card fraud, social media hijacking or corporate database breaches, identity theft is at the forefront of the threat matrix that law enforcement in the United States fights every day.
Human Resources departments are fighting to attract and retain the best talent at companies around the country.
Between better healthcare plans and retirement packages, could Identity Theft Protection find its way into the benefit packages offered by corporations in the United States?
Related Article: Identity Under Wraps: How to Avoid Social Security Identity Theft
The Growing Threat of Identity Theft
Data on identity theft generally lags by about two years. It takes time to quantify past information and verify the results of studies. If we look at the reliable data from 2005 to 2010, according to USA Today, identity theft has grown by more than 50 percent.
This means that as law enforcement, insurance companies and corporations double down on efforts to prevent the theft of personal information, the proliferation of identity thieves has simply overwhelmed the free market defenses against these attacks.
According to 100 Ways to Prevent Identity Theft, in the United States more than seven percent of the US population fell victim to identity thieves in 2012. Identity theft can happen when credit card information is entered online and intercepted by thieves.
Hackers can break into government and corporate databases to download customer data. Card readers and skimmers have even been found on gas pumps, meaning every swipe of a debit or credit card was broadcasted to thieves.
5 Ways to Combat Identity Theft
Fighting identity theft falls to three groups of people. The companies that collect our data, law enforcement agencies, and customers that complete transactions in the open market. There are five primary ways we can combat identity theft in this country:
1. Use SSL and Other Trust Certificates Online
Looking for the best deal on that trendy sweater ahead of the office happy hour? Feel pressured to make a buying decision online before inventory runs out on a clearance item? Before you reach for your wallet and enter your payment information, take a look at the address in your browser’s navigation bar. If you don’t see a little golden lock, or a “Secure Socket Layer SSL” indicator next to the address, the information you’re entering into that website could be intercepted by a third-party.
This is doubly true if you’re using public Wi-Fi. Hackers can easily gain access to your computer or smartphone while connected to a public network. Wait until you get home or use your cellular connection to conduct financial transactions online.
2. Don’t Give Information Out Over the Phone
There’s been an increase in the number of telephone scams targeted at the elderly. A random company that you might do business with calls you on the phone and requests information to verify your identity before accessing your account. The problem is the person on the other end of the phone isn’t actually an employee at the company. They’re actually a scammer looking to “fish” for your information. They might know your phone number and your name, but that’s it. That is, until you start “confirming” the information with them. If you didn’t call the company you do business with, don’t give information out over the phone.
3. Monitor Your Credit Report
This one is critical. While some financial advisors recommend freezing recommend freezing your credit in order to prevent potential identity theft, this can mean damage to your long-term credit and difficulty being approved for future financial product. Instead of freezing your credit report, subscribe to a credit monitoring service (CreditKarma.com is a free option) that allows you to see inquiries and other information posted to your credit file.
If a scammer is using your information to open up credit cards or take out loans, the inquiries will show up on your file. If the scammer isn’t making financial payments for you on these bogus accounts (guess, what, they definitely aren’t paying your credit card bill) then you’ll also see delinquencies pop up on your account.
Dispute these bogus inquiries and defaults as soon as you see them. Identifying identity theft early is one of the most important aspects to fighting its effects and restoring your good name.
4. Purchase a Document Shredder
That trash that you just took down to the curb is probably full of information that can be used to compromise your identity. Old bills, credit card statements and more can be used to harvest personal information and then steal your identity. Make a commitment to shred documents with your personal information on them.
5. Install Antivirus on Your Computer and Smartphone
Identity theft can be the result of someone installing a key logger on your computer or smartphone. That new candy crush app might be addicting, but if you followed a random link on the internet to download it, you may have inadvertently installed a key logger onto your device. Installing an antivirus and antispyware program on your computer and smartphone is a great first step towards protecting your personal information. Only download programs and apps from trusted sources and you’ll decrease the likelihood that your information will be compromised.
The Corporate Cost of Identity Theft
Identity theft is damaging the image of Fortune 500’s in the United States. It seems like every day we here about new attacks or cyber threats against big companies that conduct transactions with millions of American every day. T-Mobile, Target, Wal-Mart, Bed Bath and Beyond have all been victim to hackers infiltrating customer databases. Even the federal government has lost information to hackers from China.
Related Article: Federal Tax ID Numbers and How To Protect Your Business From Fraud
Hacking and Security Breaches
For companies to combat Identity Theft and restore their trust with the public, many now offer potential victims free identity theft monitoring. A great example of this is T-Mobile, which after experiencing a breach of their corporate security, offered free identity theft monitoring to their customers. Is it really that big of a stretch to think that companies will begin offering credit monitoring and identity theft prevention services as part of their corporate benefits package?