By Liz Mellem - May 1st, 2017
If you think cybercrime only happens in the movies, think again. Year over year, the number of cyberattacks on civilians, specifically identity theft, continues to rise. Keep reading to learn how to protect yourself.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, “An estimated 17.6 million Americans – about 7% of U.S. residents age 16 or older – were victims of identity theft in 2014.” Identity theft occurs when someone assumes the identity of another and gains access to sensitive data.
Phishing, or using clever methods to fool victims into believing they’re dealing with a legitimate organization, is often used to obtain sensitive personal information.
How to protect yourself from identity theft:
1. Don’t use the internet to provide sensitive information. If you need to give out your password, social security number, or another form of sensitive information, never use email, chat, or web forms.
2. Double check suspicious calls. If you receive a phone call from a company that you don’t know and trust asking for personal information, hang up. Call the company directly to make sure they were the original callers.
3. Question the “too good to be true”. Phony work-from-home companies offer aggressive compensation after you provide a credit card number for your “starter kit”. Call the organization said to be paying you to confirm pay rate and return on your personal investment. If an offer, any offer, seems too good to be true, it probably is.
4. Beware of email scams. No reputable company will ask you to confirm sensitive information over email. Similarly, distant relatives and Nigerian princes are most likely not trying to wire you hundreds of thousands of dollars. As always, if you’re questioning the legitimacy of a message, call the company or individual directly to confirm.
5. Get multiple forms of proof. Get written confirmation of what a company is doing with your information, get in touch with security providers to make sure a company is covered under their protections, and always track your correspondence.
6. Use a dynamic password. Your password should be unique to you, but not obvious. Accessible personal information like your birthday, maiden name, or address shouldn’t be included in your passwords. Use special characters, numbers, capitalizations, etc. to make your password hard to guess.
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For more information on identity theft and how to protect yourself online, check out our article on cyber security.
Liz lives in Denver, CO and worked as the content marketing specialist for Colorado State University-Global before freelancing full-time. She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from the University of Kansas in 2007, and her master’s degree in social work from New York University in 2008. Outside of work, Liz enjoys the outdoors, traveling, and spending time with friends.