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Identity Theft: What Should I Know and Watch out For?

, by Rob Kaufman

Part 1 of 3 in our Identity Theft Blog Series for National Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month.

There's a 2017 Identity Fraud Study released by Javelin Strategy and Research with facts, figures and important information about the latest identity theft trends. Unfortunately, it's not looking good. It appears that the decrease in criminal incidents we witnessed a few years back is not taking hold and identity theft is on the rise again. Before we get to potential reasons behind this increase, let's first take a look at those trends.

4 Major Identity Theft Facts

Identity fraud reaches a record high.

In 2016, there were 15.4 million victims. That's an increase of 2 million victims as compared to 2015—a 16 percent jump. The primary cause? Major growth in credit card fraud, with a significant spike in card-not-present transactions.

Card-not-present fraud increases dramatically.

With the growth of e-commerce and mobile-commerce, criminals have moved a significant amount of their activities online. You don't have to present a physical card for these transactions. This has helped increase card-not-present fraud by 40 percent while the incidence of point-of-sale fraud remained relatively unchanged.

Account takeovers on the rise.

It's an account takeover when a fraudster takes over your bank, investment, savings or other accounts. In 2016, the incidence of account takeover increased by 61%, creating a $2.3 billion loss. Victims pay an average of $263 in out-of-pocket costs, plus many hours trying to resolve this type of crime.

New-account fraud intensifies.

Even with chip cards and terminal readers reaching more point-of-sale locations, some criminals have found ways to get around this kind of protection in order to fraudulently open accounts.

Reasons behind the identity theft trends

Sometimes there's a single reason behind an identity theft (i.e., a victim's login information is stolen via public wi-fi). Other times it could be a combination of factors, such as a thief gathering bits of information from the mailbox at someone's house and/or their social media accounts.

The Javelin Study cites three major identity theft catalysts...

  1. Data Breaches .

As a result of data breaches, the personal information of millions of Americans has been exposed over the past few years - from credit and debit card numbers to social security numbers. The study found that victims of a data breach are 9.5 times more likely to become a victim of identity theft.

  1. Social Behavior.

Despite warnings to "hold back" displays of personal information on social media, many users continue to disregard such advice and make known information such as birthdates, high school names, pets' names, phone numbers, etc. When pieced together, this information may allow thieves to target the user and dig down into their specific location and even their activities. Javelin states there is "no proof of direct causation," however Google+, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn users had a higher incidence of fraud than those who don't share their personal information on social networks.

  1. Smartphone Usage.

The study found that 7% of mobile phone owners were identity theft victims. Many could have benefitted from updating their phones to the latest operating system, using a password on their home screen and not saving login information on their devices.

What's a consumer to do about identity theft?

Past myFICO blogs have provided ways to help you keep your data private and protect yourself against identity theft. In case you're in a rush and don't have time to read those useful blogs, here's a summarized checklist of things you can do to help protect your identity:

  • Keep your antivirus software up-to-date

  • Manually update your operating system and software

  • Make passwords complex

  • Use a VPN if utilizing public Wi-Fi

  • Consistently monitor your financial accounts

  • Change usernames and passwords after company/website breaches

  • Beware of "phishing" emails attempting to trick you into divulging personal information

  • Don't post sensitive information on social media websites

  • Keep an eye on your credit reports and FICO® Score

myFICO forums is a great place to see how others affected by Identity Theft have handled their situations... along with some great advice by other myFICO members.

Rob Kaufman

Rob is a writer... of blogs, books and business. His financial investment experience combined with a long background in marketing credit protection services provides a source of information that helps fill the gaps on one's journey toward financial well-being. His goal is simple: The more people he can help, the better.