The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. Perhaps you or someone you know has fallen victim to what has become one of America’s fastest-growing crimes. But with this expert advice, you will know the specific steps you can and should take -- before and after the fact -- to greatly reduce your potential risk.
Kroll’s Fraud Solutions has unique frontline experience helping today’s businesses and consumers safeguard against and respond to data breaches while working for the world’s leading risk consulting company. Here are 12 tips from Kroll and Monster:
1. Beware of the Word ‘Prevent’
No person and no product can 100 percent prevent identity theft. As long as criminals can benefit from stealing, there will be theft. Sensitive personal information (SPI), such as Social Security numbers and banking or credit card account information, is everywhere, housed and archived in a mind-boggling variety of ways. Individuals and companies can reduce access to SPI and improve safeguards around it by working to change how we share, collect, store and dispose of information. As a general rule, Monster does not collect SPI. When it comes to protecting SPI, exercising vigilance is always your best bet. And be sure to research any product or service that guarantees identity theft prevention -- buyer beware.
2. There Are No ‘Guarantees’
This mantra holds true for a lot of things in life, and dealing with identity theft is no exception. While a number of instances of fraud can be restored to pre-theft status, some identity dilemmas simply can’t be fixed. If you’re on the ‘no-fly list’ thanks to an imposter or error, you’ll stay there. A third-party solution cannot deliver a remedy. Once again, research any product or service before enlisting their help in restoring your pre-theft status. You also must realize this restoration takes time, and you need to work through the system for reparation. The FTC provides these tools to help identity-theft victims.
3. Watch for ‘Shoulder Surfers’ and ‘Skimmers’
Shield the entry of personal identification numbers (PINs) and be aware of people standing entirely too close by when using your credit or debit card in public. Especially with the advent of cell phone cameras, a sneaky, shoulder-surfing thief can get your private information pretty easily if you’re not careful. It’s also advisable to use teller machines that are familiar to you, so you are in a better position to identify when the equipment looks different or doesn’t feel right. Your increased awareness may reveal a skimmer’s attempt to steal PINs and banking details at that site.
4. Keep Your Social Security Card Safe at Home
There are very few reasons to carry around this crown jewel of SPI. Something as small as a Social Security card can be easily lost by simply opening your wallet. Remember, ID theft and fraud are not exclusively credit-related -- thieves can use a clean Social Security number to construct a whole new life.
5. Destroy Before You Dump That Old Computer
Erasing data just enables the computer to write over that space again; it doesn’t actually eliminate the original bits and bytes. Physically remove the hard-drive to ensure you’re not tossing out or passing along your personal details. Kroll is often called upon to recover data from an erased or damaged drive; they’re very good at it -- and so are some professional thieves.
6. Choose ‘Forget Me’ Instead of ‘Remember Me’
How many Web sites do you frequent that invite you to enable an automatic log on the next time you visit? Don’t check that box! When convenience trumps confidentiality, you’re asking for trouble. The harder you make it for hackers to follow your trail into an online store or bank account, the better.
7. Don’t Rely on Fraud Alerts or Credit Freezes Alone
Fraud alerts are meant to stop an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name. Credit freezes let you restrict access to your credit report, which would also make it hard for someone else to open new accounts. But neither one will stop a thief from trading your SPI for cash or using it for tax fraud or in any of the countless other ways fraudsters exploit stolen identities.
8. Practice Prudent Posting
Online social networking sites enable individuals around the world to chat, share photos, recruit employees, date, post resumes, auction property and more. Because the Web makes it possible for any posted document to link with another, any information you put online has the potential to stay there for what amounts to electronic eternity.
9. Keep the Key
When you check out of a hotel where you were issued a card-key to unlock the door to your room, don’t leave the card-key behind. Hold on to it until you’re safely home and can shred or otherwise discard it safely. Some say it’s an urban myth that card-keys hold vital details like credit card numbers, while others report having tested and confirmed the presence of private data coded into the magnetic strip. Even if there’s no definitive answer, why risk it?
10. What’s in Your Wallet?
Make photocopies of the personal material in your wallet: driver’s license, credit cards, insurance cards, all of it -- front and back. Should your wallet be lost or stolen, you won’t be left wondering what was actually taken, and you’ll be able to quickly notify the appropriate agencies about what has happened.
11. Identify and Avoid Phishing Email
Phishing emails are used to fraudulently obtain personal identification and account information. They can also be used to lure you into downloading malicious software. The message will often suggest the recipient’s account has an issue that requires immediate attention. A link will also be provided to a spoof Web site, asking the recipient to provide personal/account information or download malicious software.
Monster’s Fraud Prevention Team reminds you that Monster will never ask you to download software to access your account or use our services. To learn more about phishing as well as to review a list of additional tips to help you avoid falling victim to these scams, please visit our Security Center.
12. Conduct a Safe Job Search
Be mindful about the type of information you include on your resume, especially if it will be posted online. For example, you should never include the follwing:
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license number
- Bank account information
- Credit card information
- Date of birth
You should also never share the personal information listed above with a prospective employer until you are confident the employer and employment opportunity are legitimate. While it's reasonable in the early stages of the hiring process for employers to ask you for information about your education, training and qualifications related to a prospective job, don't provide proprietary information until you're farther down the road and have conducted due diligence to review the company's background.
Monster’s Fraud Prevention Team adds that while fraud is prevalent online, it tends to be focused on companies that derive their business from online purchases. As Monster is primarily a free service and the contact information found in a resume can just as easily be located elsewhere (e.g., telephone listings), you can be assured that posting your resume on Monster is a safe way to conduct a job search and manage your career. However, you do need to be prudent about what personal information you share.
For more information on how to keep your sensitive personal information safe during your job search, read our article “Protect Your Info.”
[Kroll provides a broad range of investigative, intelligence, financial, security and technology services to help clients reduce risks, solve problems and capitalize on opportunities. The company began providing identity theft solutions in 1999 and created its Fraud Solutions practice in 2002 in response to increasing requests from clients for counsel and services associated with the loss of sensitive personal information, and related identity protection and restoration issues facing organizations and individuals. For more information, visit www.krollfraudsolutions.com.]