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ways your account is less secure
Posted on July 28, 2016 by in Identity & Privacy, Personal

Identity thieves are everywhere — but because they aren’t generally committing violent crimes, and they are faceless to many victims, we tend to let our guards down and assume we aren’t going to be targeted. Recent government data, however, paints a different picture. In 2014, 17.6 million U.S. residents age 16 or over were victims of identity theft. 16.4 million of those people experienced the most common form of identity theft, which is the unauthorized use of an existing account, like a credit or debit card, or a checking, savings, or insurance account.

But how are thieves getting their hands on our personal information? Isn’t it hard to take over someone’s account?

Identity thieves have plenty of time on their hands, and they make careers out of ruining lives. While you are going about your daily life, they are thinking of ways to trick you, tap into your Internet, and even looking through the recycling bin you just put outside your house for pickup.

Here are a few every-day things that you might be doing to put yourself at risk:

  • You check your e-mail and you’ve received a message from your credit card company. It tells you that you need to reset your online account password, which they require you to do every six months as a security measure. You are happy the company takes your security so seriously and you click the link in the e-mail. It takes you to a page that looks just like your credit card company’s website, so you know it’s legit. You enter your new password, along with some personal information, like your Social Security number, to verify your identity. The reality: That e-mail was a phishing scam and you just gave criminals everything they need to steal your identity.
  • You’re among the over 1.5 billion people in the world with a Facebook account. You love sharing pictures and stories about your kids, your new house, your vacations, and your pets. Some would say you “overshare,” but you’re just having fun. The reality: You forgot to make your Facebook profile completely private and identity thieves have been taking note of all the personal information you share. This makes it easy for them to guess your passwords, know when you’re not home, and break into your accounts.
  • You’re on a family plan for your cell phone data, so you tell everyone in your family to connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible outside the house to minimize overage charges. The reality: You think you’re doing the right thing by constantly tapping into open Wi-Fi networks, but many of them are unsecured, and identity thieves are using those open lines to steal your personal information.

Even if you are usually extremely vigilant about protecting your identity in every day life, other people may not be. For example, major life events increase your risk of identity theft due to the large amount of paperwork changing hands. If you’re getting married, divorced, having a baby, or starting a new job, your risk of having your identity stolen can increase dramatically.

Learn more about how many Americans are affected by identity theft every day, and most importantly, how you can protect yourself. Visit the IdentityForce Resource Center and take a look at our infographic that addresses how two-thirds of people are clueless about identity theft.

3 things you're doing to make yourself susceptible to identity theft