NEWS & REPORTS

9 clever ways thieves steal your identity

Dec 20, 2019 | Articles

By Mark Jones  December 13, 2019

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In the increasingly connected digital world, the threat of having your identity stolen is greater than ever. Things are really bad out there.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen every year. It’s one of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S. today.

Identity theft isn’t just someone stealing your credit card or rifling through your mail. Criminals are getting more sophisticated and have come up with plenty of ways to rip us off.

That’s why we found nine clever ways thieves can steal your identity. Use this information to avoid these pitfalls and stay protected.

1. Be careful what you share

We live in a generation of oversharing. People have been oversharing the details of their personal lives on reality TV shows for years.

These days, it seems everyone shares everything on social media platforms like Facebook. It’s often innocent oversharing, like your friend who “checks in” to every restaurant so you always know where she is and what she’s eating.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to overshare with hackers, too. How often do you mindlessly click through buttons that say, “Allow Access?” If you’re playing an online game or entering a contest, it’s understandable because you want a chance to win.

But stop and think about what you’re doing before you give away your information. Plus, you should NEVER post your address or other personal information on social media sites. Platforms like Facebook are too careless with our privacy as it is, and you don’t want your sensitive information in the wrong hands.

2. Do you remember MySpace?

Remember MySpace accounts? From about 2005 to 2008 it was the most popular social media site in the world. Not so much anymore.

Most MySpace users have moved on to newer, more popular sites. Unfortunately, many forgot to delete their accounts.

Leaving old accounts active like this can be a security nightmare. Think about all the personal information you have just sitting there, waiting to be scavenged by cybercriminals. Let’s face it, Tom from MySpace probably isn’t keeping up with security protocols.

MySpace isn’t the only old account to worry about, there are many others as well. It’s critical to be proactive and delete all of your old accounts you no longer use.

Thankfully, there is a site that can help make the process easy. It’s called AccountKiller and will help you wipe the slate clean. Tap or click here to learn more about AccountKiller and easily get rid of those old accounts.

3. Some things are supposed to stay between you and your doctor

According to a survey by security company Carbon Black, a frightening 84% of healthcare organizations say they have seen an increase of cyberattacks over the past year. Cybercriminals have been targeting hospitals and clinics due to the sheer amount of data these places store.

It’s not all just patient information, either. There’s also data on doctors and insurance companies. Stolen information is sold on the Dark Web and ranges mostly from forgeries to health insurance credentials.

4. Do you know where that email came from?

When criminals first started sending phishing emails, they were pretty easy to spot. Tons of grammatical and spelling errors tipped us off to the fact that no, our banks couldn’t possibly have sent that message.

However, today’s crooks have learned that lesson and are now sending professional looking messages. They spoof logos that look so real they can be difficult for even experts to spot.

The most important rule to outsmarting phishing scams is to avoid clicking malicious links. That means you shouldn’t click on web links or open PDF attachments found in unsolicited email messages — ever. 

If you need to conduct business with a company, it’s always best to type its web address directly into your browser. Never trust a link inside a message.

5. Sometimes easier doesn’t mean safer

Shopping online is super convenient and takes out all the hassles associated with heading to the mall. But, have you ever heard of e-skimming?

It’s when your credit card information is skimmed by a criminal while you’re buying stuff online. You don’t even know it’s happening until it’s too late.

This epidemic is getting worse as hackers have figured out how to skim credit cards from ordinary online retailers without being detected. They do this by using tricky bits of code while they lie in wait and capture your data as you’re typing it in. Tap or click here to learn more about this type of scam.

6. Stay off those unsecured networks

One of the biggest mistakes people make is connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Sure, everyone wants to save on data, but joining a public Wi-Fi network at the coffee shop or airport is a terrible idea.

Crooks are always trolling these public networks, watching and waiting for new victims to can rip off. If you must use a public network, always use a VPN when you connect.

7. Saving money on tech could cost you more in the long run

Shelling out over a grand for the latest and greatest smartphone isn’t very economical. But if you are using a super old device that can’t support updates, you could be putting your personal data at risk.

That’s because many operating system updates come with critical security patches that keep crooks from stealing your information. Without these patches, you’re a serious contender for identity theft, which could wind up costing you more than what you’d pay for a new phone.

If you don’t need the top of the line smartphone, there are less expensive options. Tap or click here to learn about the 7 best phones that cost under $400.

8. Old school tricks still work

Though criminal have sophisticated hacking tools at their disposal, there are old-fashioned spying tricks that still work to this day.

We’re talking about the common thief rummaging through your trash, hoping to find personal information you may have written down and thrown away. Take the time to shred any sensitive documents before carelessly throwing them in the trash.

Also, be careful of what you say out loud. If you’re in public making a payment over the phone and reading your credit card information out loud can lead to eavesdroppers stealing that data.

9. Can you really trust Uncle Phil?

It’s sad we have to mention this, but unfortunately we must. It’s not just hackers who could steal your identity. It could be a family member or friend.

That’s why it’s very important to keep passwords and important documents in a safe place. Don’t just leave things with information like Social Security numbers and banking information sitting around the house. Always hide your information to protect your bank accounts and identity.

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