As the New Year is upon us, 2023 will bring the desire to improve and prosper with new personal and professional goals.
The same desire to improve and prosper will include cyber thieves and ID theft criminals wanting to steal your personal information.
Identity theft has become so lucrative that criminals have turned away from individual targets and instead, focus on files of personal information through cyber-attacks and data breaches.
Your personal privacy is not so private anymore based on rapidly changing technology, social media, apps, and more – which makes all of our personal information more available and more vulnerable.
The fact is that no one company can ever prevent itself from experiencing a data-breach event and no one company can prevent an individual consumer from becoming a victim of identity theft.
So, what can you do to avoid identity theft in 2023? The number one answer is education and awareness.
Consumers can protect themselves and their personal privacy by being proactive and prepared to reduce their exposure to the everyday risks of identity theft with my top 10 tips to reduce their risk of identity theft including:
Be more vigilant and read the terms and conditions of your app and social media accounts, use the privacy settings of your accounts, and be cautious about your social networking.
Be aware that fake social media accounts are on the rise, from name brands to famous people to the average person where scammers depend on human nature, psychology and “trusting” consumers to let their guards down.
Know that scammers are targeting young adults, remote working employees and the elderly through email, regular mail, and the telephone.
You need to read and understand the privacy policies of every organization you have a relationship with to know how your information is protected, saved, analyzed, sold and/or disclosed.
Synthetic-identity theft and fraud is an emerging threat. Check your credit-bureau report quarterly at no cost through annualcreditreport.com.
While no password is "unbreakable," do not make it easy for identity theft criminals by using weak passwords, or the same passwords. Instead, try using a “pass phrase” of 21 characters or more.
The best defense against phishing is to be aware that it happens every day. Assume you are being "phished" until you verify the source of an unexpected e-mail or call.
Consumers need to understand that every business they have a relationship with is at risk of a data breach incident and that a data breach is inevitable.
Consumers need to be more cautious in sharing personal data with organizations such as loyalty cards where personal information is sold repeatedly to marketing organizations.
Personal computers, phones and smart home devices of consumers are at risk of hackers to steal your identity and personal cyber insurance may be a good option though your homeowner’s insurance.
Increased education and awareness will help consumers be better prepared against the everyday challenges of the Phishing (fraudulent emails), Vishing (fraudulent phone calls and voice mail messages) and Smishing (fraudulent text messages) tactics of hackers and ID theft criminals.
To conclude, do NOT let your guard down. Your personal information is not as personal as you think. Cyber thieves do not take off during the holidays.
Always be cautious in revealing information about yourself or your employer. Always "stop, look and think" about emails, texts, and phone calls. Always slow down, be aware and be safe.
The internet was created for convenience and reliability. NOT your security!