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Avoiding Identity Theft

Identity Theft

There are new Cyber Security News stories everyday.  This article is to help you “not” be the victim.  If you want to be super scared on a daily basis like I do, head over and check out the Cyberwire podcast for daily cyber security news.

It seems the credit card industry is growing at an unprecedented rate. Some reports have the average American household with at least one credit card. In fact, from the total respondents in the survey, 81% of the households have at least one credit card. My household has more than one, as I’m sure most of yours do too.

Having your own credit card makes shopping online much easier.  I honestly can’t image buying things without a credit card.  I guess you could use a debit card, but the cyber security principles are the same, whether its debit or credit.

The issues with credit cards are many folds deep.  I’m not going to get into the harm you can do to your credit score if you don’t manage them properly, or the benefits of credit points or anything like that. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro credit card or anti credit card to me.  I’m just here to talk about the cyber security implications of using your credit card online, and ways to protect yourself.

What people may not realize is that how they use their credit cards can greatly affect the way they live. For instance, fraudulent activities are very common in the financial industry and the best targets are those who use credit cards whenever they are into shopping.  But note, most credit card companies do offer protection if you report fraud quickly.

People should take note that one of the most common credit card scams today is identity theft. In fact, it has been reported by the FBI that up to 500,000 cases of identity theft are known to exist in the U.S. every year. That’s right, 1/2 million cases per year… let that number sink in a bit.

Basically, identity theft is when someone tries to get some information from you such as your social security number and other pertinent personal identifiable data.  Most commonly this is done through social engineering.  Social engineering is using deception to trick you into giving up information.  Once a crook has the personal data they can use that to apply for credit cards or make purchases.

For this reason, it is important to know how to avoid identity theft. Here are some tips:

1. Protect your personal identifiable data and any financial information

Don’t take or listen to phone calls that require you to give any personal information, even if the caller says he is from the bank that issued your credit card and that the information gathering is just some sort of verifications.  If you think its legit, ask for a number to call them back on, then Google that number and see if it s a legit number from your bank or a scam… Google will tell you, Google knows all 🙂

2. Avoid giveaways and freebies that involve credit cards – If the ask for a credit card, its not free.

If you are offered some promotion or giveaway that is requiring you to give some personal information, then, it would be better not to entertain the offer at all. Its most likely a scam. If it seems too good to be true, it is.

3. Have a regular check up on your credit reports

Most of credit card holders are like me, lazy, and rarely do regular check-ups on their credit reports. I recommend signing up for a free service like Credit Karma which will monitor your credit for free and alert you via email or push notification the moment something changes…i.e. new account is opened, you get alerted.

4. Be careful Where you put your Trash

Although social engineering is the most common way that your identity can be stolen, there are other ways too.  Don’t throw away old statements or anything that may have personal information or credit data on it.  Be careful with tax documents and things like that.  Shred everything that contains sensitive data.

5. Look for Legit Online Retailers

Recently someone told me that they bought some designer sunglasses online for 90% off.  They sent me the link and it was a bogus site.  The site looked like a real Rayban site, but the URL was something different all together.  It had HTTPS so the buyer thought it was secure, but he was wrong.  About 2 weeks after making the purchase, his credit card was used to buy items in another country and he was now a victim of identity theft.

If you have questions about cyber security or ways to protect your personal or business data, please reach out to us, we’d love to help you out.