Cybersecurity awareness and identity theft

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Every October we take some time to reflect on cybersecurity awareness and the global efforts to help consumers and businesses protect themselves from the latest threats.  So far we've discussed IoT security, e-skimming, and the role of end-user training.  Today we'll take a look at identity theft.

Modern technology makes things more personal and convenient than ever before.  We can keep up with far-away friends on social media, make our loan payments through a website, and even use a smart assistant to help us manage our homes.  This kind of connectivity and convenience is only possible because individuals are willing to create online identities that are somehow matched to their real personal identities.  This can be as simple as an email address used to login to Facebook, or as thorough as a profile for a loan or bank account application that is submitted online.

In simple terms, modern identity theft is the illegal use of someone else's personal information in order to get some kind of reward which is usually money or credit.  Here are a few quick facts from the 2019 Department of Homeland Security NCSAM sheet on identity theft:

  • The total number of data breaches reported in 2018 decreased 23% from the total number of breaches reported in 2017, but the reported number of consumer records containing sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) exposed increased 126%.1
  • Credit card fraud tops the list of identity theft reports in 2018. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 167,000 reports from people who said their information was misused on an existing account or to open a new credit card account.2
  • Consumers reported $905 million in total fraud losses in 2017, a 21.6% increase over 2016.3

This type of crime is a common and dangerous threat to everyone.

Credit card fraud tops the list of identity theft reports, with more than 167,000 report #NCSAM #CybersecurityClick To Tweet

Identity theft can result from a number of things, many of which are out of your control.  You can't control how Equifax, Yahoo, or Target secure their systems.  What you can do is take some basic steps to protect yourself:

  • Secure your Social Security number (SSN). Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet. Only give out your SSN when necessary.
  • Don't share personal information (birthdate, Social Security number, or bank account number) because someone asks for it.
  • Collect mail every day. Place a hold on your mail when you are away from home for several days.
  • Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
  • Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
You can't control how Equifax, Yahoo, or Target secure their systems, but you can take these steps to protect yourself. #NCSAMClick To Tweet

You can find more information and tips on this topic here.

If you are a victim of identity theft, this website will help you report it and create a recovery plan to protect yourself and undo the damage.

For more information on identity theft and other types of cybercrime, visit the National CyberSecurity Awareness Month website here and the European CyberSecurity Month website here.

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