The Trend of Identity Theft and Why It’s More Serious Than You Think
According to research from Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), reported cases of identity theft fell by 33% in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019. This is due in part to financial institution measures, like EMV chip bank cards, and heightened public awareness of online data and privacy concerns.
However, the ITRC also believes that cybercriminals may resume their efforts with updated databases, as many cybercriminals have been using stolen credential databases dating back to 2015. Threat actors could return to traditional attack patterns to update their identity information databases to commit fresh waves of future attacks.
According to the FTC’s “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book”, cyber criminals utilized identity theft techniques such as imposter scams and debt collection the most throughout 2019, and credit card fraud was the most reported type of identity theft, with over 167,000 victims reporting cases throughout the year.
With the on-going pandemic causing over 67% of the US workforce to work remotely from home in 2020, cyber criminals have been targeting remote workers with phishing and email scams revolving around medicare benefits packages, online work opportunities, and tax stimulus checks. Another problem as this article mentions is that cyber security professionals are also working from home and may have difficulty monitoring companies from afar.
How to protect yourself from identity theft
Cybercriminals have become incredibly sophisticated, especially as computing power becomes more advanced. It’s even said in the cyber security industry that traditional encryption algorithms may soon be obsolete. We aren’t there quite yet, but it may no longer be enough to have a “strong password”.
Here are some valuable tips on how to protect your personal data in 2020.
Use an identity monitor
Identity monitoring software can help ease the burden of all the different tasks it’d require to monitor your identity such as on the dark web, credit reports, social security number monitoring, etc. For example, you may not be aware an identity thief has obtained a passport using your SSN until after the fact, but with identity monitoring software, you would automatically be alerted to those types of things.
Dark web monitoring is also highly useful, as search engines like Google do not index dark web pages, but dark web monitoring tools are built by experts who regularly monitor dark web marketplaces where stolen information is bought and sold.
Use a password manager
Though flaws in password manager platforms are found every now and then, most security experts agree that using them is still far safer than not using them. Password managers store your credentials in encrypted databases that are locked with master keys, and the databases are typically stored on a cloud server, enhancing overall security.
Password managers can randomly generate complex passwords for you, and automatically fill forms to prevent keyloggers from recording your information as well.
Regularly check your accounts
Due to heightened concern about consumer identity theft during COVID-19, the major credit reporting agencies are offering free weekly credit reports until April 21, 2021 (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). Previously, you could only request a maximum of 6 free credit reports annually. Weekly reports are incredibly useful for constantly monitoring your credit identity.
You can also use a service like HaveIBeenPwned? to check if any of your emails and passwords belong to any data breaches. This is very useful for seeing if any of your old account passwords have been hacked, even accounts you forgot existed, and help you eliminate your digital footprint. These are a few of the basic cybersecurity essentials, but you should always keep them in mind to be protected and safe online.
Cyber criminals are always trying to stay one step ahead of the latest in cyber security technology, but advancements in AI, neural networks, and big data will continue to make it difficult for cyber criminals to commit identity theft and data breaches. You can read more about how big data can improve cyber security here.