The number of identity fraud victims increased by sixteen percent (rising to 15.4 million U.S. consumers) in the last year, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. They recommend that consumers work in partnership with institutions to help minimize their risk and impact of identity fraud.
The following are seven recommendations for consumers to follow:
1. Be smart on social media
Social media can help you keep up-to-date on your friends lives, but can also help fraudsters stay up-to-date too. Reviewing your social media security settings to make sure that your profile is only visible to friends and connections is a good place to start in securing social media from fraudsters. Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.
2. Protect online shopping accounts
With fraud moving online, accounts with online shopping sites are valuable targets. Enabling two-factor authentication on sites that have that capability, such as Amazon, can make it significantly more difficult for fraudsters to take over your accounts. For sites without two-factor authentication, use strong passwords or a password manager to secure accounts.
3. Exercise good password habits
Passwords have remained the de facto first line of defense for most online accounts, which has motivated criminals to compromise them whenever possible. Using strong, unique, regularly updated passwords helps reduce the value to fraudsters of passwords stolen in a data breach or through malware. Password managers can provide a convenient way to manage good password hygiene without resorting to writing them down, which could also place them at risk of physical compromise.
4. Place a security freeze
If you are not planning on opening new accounts in the near future, a freeze on your credit report can prevent anyone else from opening one in your name. Credit freezes must be placed with all three credit bureaus and prevents everyone except for existing creditors and certain government agencies from accessing your credit report. While costs vary per state, typically each bureau costs below $20. Should you need to open an account requiring a credit check, the freeze can be lifted through the credit bureaus.
5. Sign up for account alerts
A variety of financial service providers, including depository institutions, credit card issuers and brokerages, provide their customers with the option to receive notifications of suspicious activity. These notifications can often be received through email or text message, making some notifications immediate, and some go so far as to allow their customers to specify the scenarios under which they want to be notified, so as to reduce false alarms.
Consumers should also consider signing up for identity protection services which can provide security that is difficult for them to obtain on your own, such as regularly monitoring credit reports for suspicious new accounts and screening for sale of personal information on the dark web.
6. Be alert for online transactions
As EMV makes fraud at physical stores more challenging, fraudsters are moving to target online merchants. Some financial institutions offer alerts for online transactions. These can help quickly detect fraud. Since online fraud enables fraudsters to make many transactions in a very short period of time, quickly detecting fraud is essential to preventing greater losses.
7. Seek help as soon as fraud is detected
The quicker a financial institution, credit card issuer, wireless carrier or other service provider is notified that fraud has occurred on an account, the sooner these organizations can act to limit the damage. Early notification can also help limit the liability of a victim in some cases, as well as allow more time for law enforcement to catch the fraudsters in the act.