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Fighting Identity Theft in the New Year

Last updated on December 21st, 2018 at 12:42 pm

In 2013, over 13 million Americans were victims of identity theft according to Javelin Strategy & Research. Some estimates say that every two seconds there is a new victim of identity theft. Plymouth Rock Assurance wants to help you keep fighting identity theft in the New Year.

The good news, and, yes, there is some good news, is that after high-profile attacks on Target, Neiman Marcus, Home Depot, and JPMorgan Chase, consumers are becoming more vigilant than ever.

In fact, the Better Business Bureau reported a decrease in the number of identity thefts in 2013 despite an increase in instances of fraud — a sign that all of us are doing more to protect our valuable assets. To help you stay vigilant, we have highlighted some of the most common fraud techniques and scams that criminals are using today and steps to take so you can avoid becoming the next victim.

Low-Tech Schemes

Believe it or not, these techniques still work. They include things like dumpster diving, mail fraud and “shoulder surfing” – that is when an individual stands close enough to you to visually steal your PIN. All of these schemes are easily preventable with just a little effort. Make sure to shred all documents that contain any personal information. If you aren’t sure if you should shred, then do it — better safe than sorry. If you are using your PIN in a public space, make sure you feel comfortable and safe. If not, use a credit card in order to protect your valuable banking information.

Social Engineering or Pretexting

This scam is a bit more elaborate and requires criminals to conduct prior “research” before committing the theft. This research often occurs when a criminal poses as an organization you have done business with and claims to need more information, such as updating your records. Today, criminals employ social networks to do their dirty work. The key to keeping yourself safe is verification. Always ask for an individual’s name and employee number, then tell them you will call back on the main service line. If the behavior is happening over social media, never give out sensitive information to a social media handle you do not trust. Avoid filling in any information in a pop-up window or link supplied.

Phishing Scams

These are the most common scams to steal your identity. They can exist in a myriad of ways, including email, social networks, websites, text messages, fax messages and even standard mail. All of these schemes have one goal — to get you to give over your personal information. Don’t be fooled by offers that are too good to be true, promises of free merchandise, money, prizes and more.

Malware and Spyware

This is a form of phishing that installs a small program on to your computer, tablet or mobile device. These programs are designed to steal your passwords, screen names and more by reading either your key strokes or accessing sensitive information while you are using the internet. To avoid malware, never download any program from the internet unless you are 100% sure it is from a trusted origin. Also never click on a suspicious-looking link, even if sent from one of your contacts. Scammers often use hacked email addresses to conduct phishing scams. Often these emails or pop-up windows contain messages such as “You Have a Virus” or “Malware Detected.” Don’t be fooled, install your own malware and spyware protection from a trusted provider.

These are just some of the many scams taking place now. As criminals keep getting smarter, it is crucial that consumers stay one step ahead. Make sure to monitor all your statements daily and, if possible, employ a credit monitoring service. You can keep up on some of the latest scams by checking in on Center for Identity Management and Information Protection.

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