Written by: Woodrow Levin
According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft is one of the most prevalent non-violent crimes and one that is likely to leave economic, legal, and emotional sequels for years to come. In 2013, the CSN (Consumer Sentinel Network) received a little over two million complaints, with many being directly related to identity theft. Identity theft goes beyond getting your credit card stolen. The CSN reports that many of the issues identified included benefits fraud, utilities fraud, banking fraud, and even employment-related fraud. Every year, about seven percent of the total U.S. population will be victimized by this crime. In most instances, the type of fraud experienced relates to the use of existing financial accounts for unauthorized transactions.
Every day those involved in identity theft become far more sophisticated in the way they get hold of personal data. A month does not go by without us hearing in the news about data-breach issues affecting millions of customers from chain stores to online websites. There is very little that can be done when identity theft happens in bulk, and data is stolen from businesses that had a heightened responsibility to safeguard our information. While generally speaking you cannot avoid this type of compromise, there are things you are doing on a daily basis that put your identity at risk. Knowing what types of behaviors are risky is your best defense when it comes to guarding your identity. Let’s take a look at five common vulnerabilities that are putting your personal information at risk.
Your Online Storage Habits Are Too Liberal
There thousands of interfaces, tools, and apps that promise to help you make life easier, but before you click “accept,” take a look at the security features of each tool. Many of these tools allow you to store your personal information in environments that are unencrypted and unsecured. A freebie could cost you more than you ever imagined if you are freely disclosing information that could provide someone with criminal intent access to your financial information. If it is not from a trusted source or you are being asked for ongoing access to personal information available in your devices, then move on and live without it. If you have personal and private documents that need storage, then the best approach is to have an online digital safe deposit box with mechanisms in place to protect your cloud-stored data.
Your Mobile Devices Don’t Have a Password
This is a very common habit and one that is putting many people in danger. When a criminal has access to your unsecured phone, it is not only your identity and your privacy at risk. Through an open portal, you are giving the criminal unprecedented access to your social and business network. Without a password, your email, your social media, and even some banking accounts become a free-for-all. We know having a password is a nuisance, and we all want to live in a perfect world where we never misplace our phone or have it stolen, but the reality is very different. The number of mobile devices that go missing is in the millions, and your device could potentially become the next phone for “Brother Orange.”
You Have Had the Same Password Since 1999
Not only have you kept your four-character password for your Hotmail account, but you have also decided that the same password is good enough for every single gated website. Failure to regularly update your passwords compromises the access to your most important accounts. Even if someone is just able to access your email, chances are your email contains enough personal information to put you in a vulnerable position and compromise your identity.
Libraries and Internet Cafes Are Part of Your Daily Routine
Utilizing public computers to access private and financially sensitive information is a no-no. Gone are the days when personal devices were price prohibitive, forcing individuals to use public computers available through libraries or Internet cafes. Internet-capable devices can be purchased for under one hundred dollars. Avoiding Internet cafes is of particular importance when you are traveling overseas. Many are set up to capture keystrokes, thus taking over your passwords. If for some reason out of your control you are forced to use a public computer, then make sure you erase all history prior to leaving. While not foolproof, it will at least ensure the next user does not have accidental access to your personal passwords.
You Are Careless About the Management and Disposal of Your Snail Mail
We are always surprised at the high number of individuals that discard mail containing personal information without first shredding it. Discarding mail with personal information puts you at significant risk of identity theft. Your identity is especially at risk if your garbage is disposed in a common dumpster, such as the ones used in apartment complexes. Unscrupulous individuals often dumpster dive in hopes of finding bits and pieces of personal information that will allow them to take over your identity. Don’t make it easy. Shredding only takes a few minutes and could save you a great deal of heartache and headaches.
Anyone who has suffered identity theft will tell you that it is no fun. Get into the habit of taking care of the information that matters the most: your own. If you are already using Safe by Estate Assist why not consider adding Estate Guard identity theft protection. For just pennies a day our team will take care of the most important tasks associated to identity theft monitoring and identity restoration. Additionally, should the compromise be the result of wallet theft, we’ll help you expedite the recovery of all your documents from IDs to credit and debit cards. Just one more way we’re helping you have the peace of mind you deserve.
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