Last week, a Javelin Strategy & Research report found 12.6 million victims of identity fraud in the United States in the past year, which equates to 1 victim every 3 seconds.
They recommend that consumers work in partnership with institutions to minimize their risk and impact of identity fraud by following a three-step approach:
1. Keep personal data private – Secure your personal and financial records behind a password or in a locked storage device whether at home, at work and on your mobile device. Familiar fraud is a serious issue with 12 percent of fraud victims knowing the perpetrator personally. Other ways to secure information include: not mailing checks to pay bills, shredding documents, monitoring your accounts weekly, and protecting your computer and mobile device with updated security software. Use a trusted and secure Internet connection (not a public Wi-Fi hotspot) when transmitting personal or financial information, and direct deposit payroll checks.
2. Look for security features – When paying online be sure you have a secure connection. Two ways you can denote a secure connection are to look for “https” and not just http at the start of the merchant’s web address or a bright green box and padlock graphic in the address bar of most browsers. Check for either one of these before entering personal or payment information.
3. Think before you share – Before providing any sensitive information, question who is asking for the information. Why do they need it? How is the information being used? Do not provide the information if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request. Be careful when clicking on links that then take you to a page asking for personal information. If an organization asks you for your Social Security number to validate your identity, request another question.
4. Be Proactive – There are many different levels of identity theft protection and consumers should work in partnership with institutions on identity theft prevention. By setting up alerts that can be sent via e-mail and to a mobile device and monitoring accounts online at bank and credit card websites, consumers can take a more proactive role in detecting identity fraud and stopping misuse. In 2012, 50 percent of fraud was first detected by the victims.
5. Enlist others – There are a wide array of services available to consumers who want extra protection and peace of mind including payment transaction alerts, credit monitoring, credit report fraud alerts, credit freezes and database scanning. 3 out of every 5 identity fraud victims did not know the source of their fraud, but many services will now provide alerts directly to a consumer’s smartphone. Some services can be obtained for a fee and others at no cost to the consumers who are victims of a data breach. These services can monitor credit reports, public records and online activity for signs of fraudulent use of personal information.
6. Take any data breach notification seriously – If you receive a data breach notification, take it very seriously as you are at a much higher risk according to the 2013 Identity Fraud Report. If you receive an offer from your financial institution or retailer for a free monitoring service after a breach, you should take advantage of the offer, closely monitor your accounts and put a fraud alert on your credit report.
7. Don’t wait. Report problems immediately – If you suspect or uncover fraud, contact your bank, credit union, wireless provider or protection services provider to take advantage of resolution services, loss protections and methods to secure your accounts. A fast response can enhance the likelihood that losses are reduced, and law enforcement can pursue fraudsters so they experience consequences for their actions.