This Week is All About You
National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW) falls on March 1-7, 2020 this year. It’s a time focused on helping consumers navigate our digital economy, understand their data security and privacy rights, while also empowering them to avoid scams that lead to identity theft.
Identity Crimes Get with the Times
Fraud and identity theft have a long history and technology advances throughout the years have only made it easier. The first recorded instances of identity theft started in the 1930s with voter registration fraud and underage drinking. Today, fraudsters target many of their victims online. From social media sites to email accounts, online banking and bill pay – criminals have many avenues to choose from.
Talos Intelligence estimates that over 85% of emails sent worldwide in 2019 were spam. Messaging platforms like email, Facebook Messenger and Apple iMessage are especially vulnerable to phishing attacks that capture personal and financial information. In 2019, the popular messaging app Whatsapp announced hackers had exploited a flaw in the app’s voice call feature, installing surveillance software on users’ smartphones (both iOS and Android), which may have impacted its 1.5 billion users worldwide.
Your personal and financial information are not the only items caught in the crossfire. Phishing can look like a fake notification from your bank, or a malicious link unknowingly shared by a friend on social media. Malware, or malicious software, can also be attached to phishing messages – causing damage to the device itself.
Common Phishing Red Flags
- Unknown Sender | Phishers may try to mimic known email addresses from big-name companies and retailers.
- Spelling and Grammar Mistakes | Many phishing emails are sent from countries outside of the United States and may include noticeable errors.
- Links and Attachments | Fraudsters can add malware to emails and send users to fake online forms via links and attachments.
- Sir/Madam Greeting | Phishing emails are often sent in large batches and use a less personal greeting like Sir or Madam.
- Sense of Urgency | Messages will urge you to act now or direct you to do something immediately.
Data breaches and data leaks continue to set records in frequency and severity year after year. Large-scale data breaches from 2019 like Facebook and First American Financial have put consumers and their identities on edge. IdentityForce’s 2019 Identity Protection Market Research Report found more than 81% of consumers agree that their identity is the most important thing they own. And 63% of consumers expect companies to take responsibility for protecting their personal data, according to Ping Intelligence.
When your personal information is involved, it’s important to watch your bank and credit accounts, Social Security number, health insurance, and social media, and to notify the proper authorities if you’re a victim of identity theft. Follow our 10 Tips for Data Breach Victims to help you stay alert to fraud and further safeguard your identity from cyberthieves.
If the information exposed through a data breach was not enough to commit fraud or identity theft, fraudsters may continue to target you for more valuable information. Social engineering is simply using known information about a victim to target them on a personal level. Fraudsters research their victims beforehand to craft scams that match their interests.
Identity thieves also know that you are more likely to provide information to someone who seems trustworthy. As such, scammers may impersonate people you know, like your favored retailers, bank branch, or local politician.
Start Celebrating NCPW!
Want to get your NCPW 2020 off to a great start? Use these tips to ensure you’re securing your identity:
- Your Social Security number is not the only information you need to protect.
Don’t forget that paired with your birthdate and mailing address, your Social Security number can allow fraudsters to open new bank accounts and apply for loans, as well as take over existing accounts in your name.
- Unique passwords are more important than strong passwords.
Creating a strong password doesn’t mean much if you’re using it for multiple accounts. Fraudsters hope you reuse passwords so they can get more by doing less.
- Your “private” social media profile isn’t that private.
Your social media profiles can reveal more about you than you may think. Information you may consider “public” or “non-sensitive” can still give fraudsters more information about you. Geolocation tags, birthday posts from friends and sports jerseys in photos can capture your location, age, birthday and more.
- There’s nothing wrong with extra layers of protection.
Don’t wait until the damage is done. Protect yourself and your family with the best identity theft protection to monitor your personal information and alert you to fraudulent activity before it’s too late.
Discover how to protect yourself from the impact of identity crimes, with our exclusive eBook that compiles 50+ research findings into meaningful recommendations.