Your identity has quite a lot of value, especially in the wrong hands. Security firm ZoneAlarm put together some numbers in 2011 concerning identity fraud, and it even shocked us. Let's talk about a few of these statistics and what it means.
First of all, what shocked us the most is that according to the FTC, in the United States, 9 million individuals have their identities stolen each year. Identity theft is a little different than identity fraud, however. Theft is when personal information is exposed and taken without permission. This is happening all the time by malicious software like spyware, but it can also happen when legitimate websites and services get infiltrated by cybercriminals. If a reputable online store (or even a database for a brick and mortar store) gets hacked into, your personal information can be stolen. That's identity theft.
Identity fraud is when that data is misused for financial gain. This is when things start to get very dangerous. In 2009, $56 billion dollars were accumulated by cyber criminals through identity fraud. The good news is in 2010 that number went down to "only" $37 billion. What does that mean to the average person? On average, victims of identity fraud had $4,841 dollars stolen per victim. Trouble is, the world has had to improve drastically to protect consumers from identity fraud. This means higher costs of doing business which then get reflected on prices of products and services. In other words, because of identity fraud, we all lose.
How does your data get stolen? There are plenty of ways, but here are a few popular methods:
- Hackers can pick up credentials via public Wi-Fi and public PCs.
- Credit Card Skimming - a process that involves your credit card data being stolen when your credit card is swiped at a standard ATM or credit card terminal.
- Selling or discarding used computer equipment that isn't properly wiped can expose personal information.
- Hackers can infiltrate networks and databases.
- Dumpster diving and paper mail theft.
- Malware and viruses
In almost half of reported identity theft cases, the victim knew the criminal.
What do you do if your identity is stolen?
Almost half of all reports of identity frauds are discovered by the user first, although banks and credit card companies have methods in place to stay on top of it as well. If your financial credentials are stolen, you need to contact your bank and/or credit card companies immediately, both by phone and in writing. You'll want to file a police report with details about where your identity was stolen, what you believe was or could have been stolen, and documented proof of the crime.
You don't want to risk identity fraud. Monitor your credit reports closely, shred sensitive mail and documents before throwing them away, and ensure your computers and network are running latest security updates and antivirus, as well as other security measures. For a complete review of your security, contact us at (831) 758-3636 and we will help pinpoint vulnerabilities and fill in the cracks before a costly event occurs.