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Cybersecurity firm Risk Based Security has revealed that data breaches have exposed more than 38 billion records since 2010. The sheer extent of data breaches ensures that nearly everyone has sensitive details about them exposed in one data breach or another over the years. Sometimes, cybercriminals wait for months or years before exploiting that information.

A 2019 Internet Security Threat Report by Symantec found that cybercriminals are diversifying targets and using stealthier methods to commit identity theft and fraud. This essentially suggests that anyone can be a victim of identity theft/ fraud irrespective of your credit score or your bank balance. In fact, you can become a target of identity fraud just by possessing a Social Security number. The numbers have now reached so high that every 1 in 10 people suffer some form of identity fraud every year, with 21% being attacked multiple times. However, implementing a more planned approach and forethought in your approach towards information security can help you keep your information secure to a large extent in the long run. Managed Security Services has extensive resources on keeping your digital identity secure.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is as simple as it sounds. In this kind of attack, cybercriminals use personally identifiable pieces of digital information about you to pose as you or commit theft from your accounts. Identity fraud spans a number of different crimes or misdemeanors that can be committed in your name. For instance, criminals can steal from your bank and investment accounts, or open new credit lines. They could get medical treatment/ services using your insurance information, utility service, commit tax refund theft, or give out your information when arrested by the police.

If your information has been caught in multiple data breaches already, chances are your information has already been exposed. In this case, it may be advisable to be extra cautious and take precautions well in advance to prevent criminals from exploiting your data.

Top 10 ways to prevent identity theft

Monitor your credit regularly

Got a surprising offer in the mail with an account opened in your name? Be careful of an impending fraud attempt. Always be careful of any innocuous queries or unusual alerts from your bank, bank officials, credit card provider, and other financial institution. These kinds of small inquiries usually predate a larger attack at compromising your accounts.

Always Protect Your Personal Information Online

MSPs allow businesses to implement a proactive approach towards issue detection and rapid resolution before they have a chance to snowball into system downtime. Managed service providers typically monitor your network round the clock and flag issues before they can become a problem.

If a problem happens, MSPs typically employ extensive root cause analysis (RCA) that helps them understand the underlying reasons and prevent a recurrence. Since downtimes can cost businesses not only financially, but also in lost business opportunities and decreased customer satisfaction – MSPs can end up potentially saving your organization thousands of dollars in the long run by preventing downtime.

Receive 24/7 Assistance With Quick Response Times

Don’t overshare online and never make personal information, such as your birth date, publicly accessible. Never enter sensitive personal or financial information on a website unless you can verify its authenticity. Basic identifiers of a secure website include a URL that starts with “HTTPS” and contains a security symbol that looks like an unbroken padlock. You could even go one step further and right-click on the padlock icon to ensure that it’s up to date. Refer to IT support 24/7 for more ideas on protecting your personal information.

Be wary of phishing and spoofing attempts

Scammers can pose as anybody. They could pose as a high-ranking member of your organization, or pretend to be from your bank or the IRS. Most of the time the conversations happen through emails or phone calls and it can be hard to verify their identity right then. The problem arises when people don’t even bother to verify and accept these fraudulent emails or phone calls at face value. Be wary of attachments that originate outside of immediately trusted sources. If you choose to respond, initiate a callback or return the email yourself instead of responding to a call or email.

Always maintain password hygiene; add an authentication step

Maintaining basic password hygiene is one of the most effective steps you can take in ensuring the security of your digital information. Never use passwords that can be easily guessed, use personal information in creating passwords or repeat passwords on multiple sites. Also, make sure to change your passwords periodically, so their integrity is protected.

Watch your mailbox

Sometimes the danger comes right up to your doorstep. Always empty your mailbox quickly, use a secure padlock, or a P.O. box, so criminals can’t glean personal information from credit card pitches or other financial documents being mailed to you. Avoid mailing outgoing bill payments and checks from home as these can be easily stolen and the payee’s name modified. Make the trip to the post office or use secure digital payment gateways.

Guard Against Tele-Theft

You should never spell out personal information over the phone unless necessary. At the very least, do not do so unless you made the phone call in the first place. As outlined earlier, it is easy to pretend to be someone else over the phone. If someone claims to be calling from a place that you trust, such as your bank, ask them to provide you with a number you can call them back on and ensure that the number matches with the bank’s database of official phone numbers. An easy way of validating any conversation with an organization is to simply call their customer care number and verify the information.

Protect Your Mobile Devices & Computer

All the electronic devices that we use on a daily basis now contain a treasure trove of personally identifiable information including biometric data. This makes it crucial for us to protect all mobile devices and computers by using:

  • Use an effective firewall and secure browser
  • Never download anything from sites you don’t trust
  • Always implement effective virus, spyware, and malware protection
  • Encrypt or at least password-protect your data, including any personal or financial information
  • Avoid automatic log-in processes (yes, even with master keys)
  • When the time comes to recycle your electronic device, delete all personal information and overwrite the hard drive

Use a digital wallet

When making online payments, you should use a digital wallet. This is an app that contains secure, digitized versions of all your credit and debit cards. Digital wallets ensure that your financial transactions remain tokenized and encrypted. Moreover, these facilitate contactless transactions – an undeniable benefit in today’s environment rife with health risks.

Read through financial and medical statements carefully

As horribly boring as it sounds, reading your financial statements is a necessity in order to recognize and verify every transaction. You should always be mindful of due dates and be wary when you do not receive an expected bill. Healthcare frauds are also on the rise and you should always take a moment to carefully review “explanation of benefits” statements to verify the services provided.

Use a virtual private network

Commonly known as a VPN, this tool helps to encrypt your data, hide your identity (IP address), location, and all online activity including browsing and communications. Managed Cloud Services can help you set up an effective VPN for your individual or business needs.

What to do If you become a victim of identity theft?

It’s always a good idea to keep a close watch over your credit report and immediately respond to any anomalies that you observe. Filing your taxes early is also a good idea unless you want a scammer to do it for you.

If you think your identity has been compromised, please visit IdentityTheft.gov.

If you are struggling to remove fraudulent information from your credit report after a security incident, consider getting in touch with an identity theft attorney.