With data breaches on the rise, you may be increasingly concerned about cybercriminals gaining access to your personal information. Identity theft can be an overwhelming event and can take months or even years to rectify, without even taking financial ramifications into account.
But you can protect yourself by considering three key questions.
1. How can hackers get my information?
Criminals can get your information in a variety of ways:
- Stealing your mail or electronic devices
- Social engineering techniques, such as phishing through email, social media, texts or phone calls
- Gaining remote access to your device, which allows them to download malware or transfer your personal files
2. What information do criminals commonly seek to access?
Data breaches vary in severity and the type of information compromised, including name, email address, government IDs and account numbers. A hacker can build a complete profile about you by pairing information from a data breach with social media data and data bought and sold on the “dark web.”
3. How can I prevent becoming a victim of fraud and identity theft?
While there is no guarantee that you will not fall prey, there are steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Be mindful of the information you share with others, even in the normal course of doing business, and never share banking credentials and passwords.
- Do not use personally identifying information as your username or password.
- Create strong and complex passwords on all devices and online accounts and never share them. Change them frequently and consider using a password management tool.
- Adopt multi-factor authentication wherever offered, especially on financial, email, social media and shopping accounts.
- Be wary of social engineering techniques. Be cautious when opening emails with spoofed email addresses, poor grammar or spelling, and attachments or links. Do not assume a phone call is genuine because the caller knows your phone number, and do not call or text an unknown phone number.
- Don’t allow anyone to access your computer remotely, even if they claim to be from a reputable company. A common scheme used by fraudsters comes in the form of a pop-up on your screen or a phone call stating you have a virus on your device. If you’re not expecting such a call, this type of contact is most likely fraud, so close out of the window or hang up on the caller.
- Always verify payment instructions by calling the originator on a known number when you receive instructions via email—even if the email is from someone you trust.
- Consider using online bill-pay options to avoid exposing your personal and account information if a paper check is lost in the mail or stolen.
- Keep financial documents and records in a secure place, and destroy sensitive documents you no longer need.
- If you reside in the U.S., consider securing or freezing access to your credit report if you have not done so already.
- Seniors and children are particularly vulnerable. Fraud perpetrated against them often goes unnoticed longer, so ensure you take steps to protect them as well.
Anyone can fall victim to fraud and identify theft. But if you remain vigilant of the threat, you may make smarter cyber-safe decisions to protect yourself and your family.
For more of our insights, please visit our cybersecurity and fraud intelligence hub here.