Identity theft occurs so frequently that the Federal Bureau of Investigation cites it as "America's fastest growing crime problem." According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) malicious activity surpassed human error as the cause of cyber attacks to your system. The leading malicious causes of data breaches in the corporate world were hacking attacks (17.1%) and insider theft (15.4%).
Place your financial information in a safety deposit box or somewhere under lock and key. Do not carry your Social Security Card in your purse or wallet. Use a shredder to destroy unneeded or outdated financial papers. Shredders are very inexpensive and can be purchased for under $30.
ID Theft Protection Companies monitor your credit reports, scores, and financial accounts for any fraudulent activity. There are many companies to choose from such as, FreeCreditScore, Equifax, ProtectMyID, and Life Lock just to name a few.
Your passwords should consist of at least three elements: letters, numbers, and special characters ($%#). A password that consist of letters or numbers only, or letters and one or two numbers, is not a safe password and can easily be hacked. Not only should you utilize the three elements in a password but you should change your password at least once per quarter.
In layman's terms Phishing is a bogus website that looks just like a legitimate financial site. You receive a fraudulent email from a fake company telling you that somehow your account with XYZ bank has been compromised, or it's "about to be compromised" if you don't take precautions now. The fake email will provide a link for you to click and this link takes you to a bogus website that looks just like your financial institution (this includes PayPal). The email advises you to log into your account and change your password from the bogus site; this is where the hackers capture your information. Two things to remember here, 1) your financial institution will never ask you to change your personal information in an email, and 2) check the address bar, if it's a secure site it will start with https instead of http. Here's the difference between the two: http stands for "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol", the primary technology protocol on the Web that allows linking and browsing. https is "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol" with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), another protocol developed with secure, safe Internet transactions in mind. You will always see "https" on a banks website.
If you notice any outward signs of identity theft take action immediately. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and place fraud alerts on your credit reports. Filing a complaint with the FTC is an extremely important step that victims of identity theft should take.
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