About The Author

Randy Taylor has been involved in insurance and financial services for 32 years and was first published in 1998.  He has additional specific training in identity theft  and was quoted by Forbes Magazine relating to small business practices. He can be reached at: https://www.facebook.com/RandyTaylorFinancial

Why We are at Risk

Identity theft is reported to be the fastest growing crime in the world. It is a crime where the criminal is more often able to remain anonymous than other crimes while being able to steal money directly from individuals by breaching social media sites, large retail store credit card databases and more.
Bob Sullivan, technology correspondent for MSNBC, estimated that there are as many as 10 Million cases worldwide. As social media sites grow exponentially; these online communities offer an ever growing market for exploitation by cyber criminals.
In this article I will address areas that might be overlooked by the consumer that put them at risk as well as how to be prevent the occurrences of identity theft and finally, what to do after the fact if your information has been compromised.

In some instances you cannot protect yourself. 

 Several large companies that have experts trying to safeguard clients information have been hacked by cyber criminals. This includes sophisticated companies like Go Daddy, Target, Neiman Marcus, and LinkedIn. The key is to do the best you can on your own to protect any of your sensitive account information by taken precautions like those mentioned below.

Scams to Watch Out For

Emails asking for personal information relating to a tax refund or economic stimulus payment.

Income Tax Fraud: The criminal actually files a fake tax return with your social and claims a refund.

Job offers by email: Beware of official looking emails with links to websites suggestion that you only have to complete on online application.

Phishing . This occurs when online scammers send you e-mails disguised as legitimate organizations while asking for personal information. They may ask you to confirm an account number or address.

Fake U.S. Census emals

Medical Identity Theft: Don’t give out your social security form unless asked..

Fake jury duty phone calls.

How to Best Protect Yourself

Social Networking: Do Not Make Your Date of Birth Public

One of the first things people should do is to keep their date of birth hidden on all social media sites.
In 2011 for example 67% of all identity theft cases reported were cases where people had made their true dates of birth public. With many social networking sites your password can be stolen by a hacker with just your date of birth and the email address you used to sign up with.

Protect your passwords

Hayley Tsukayma, of the Washington Post August 7, 2014,  suggested that first you write down passwords, keep them separate from the user names, and store the document in a safe place.  The also recommend a strong password with letters, numbers, or more. Finally they also suggest password managers, online services such as I pass, or free alternatives like LastPass or Dashlane.

Other practices to consider when on social media sites

Go to your account settings and select posts to be private or to be seen by friends only.

Do not include your age or hometown in any screen name or home page.

Do your research, and If a new unknown friend asks to join your network;ask your friends if they know him or her.

Use common sense. Do not click on any link on the sites or in personal emails that was not solicited or those with no subject line listed in the case of an email. Assume that you are not the winner of any contest that you did not enter and when in doubt; call the person who sent you the communication.

Maintain an up to date virus protection and malware protection program on your computer. While there are several free virus protection programs available; the cost for a state of the art upgrade is minimal compared to the time and money lost if you are hacked.

Change passwords frequently

Purchase an identity theft program which not only monitors changes in your credit reports etc; but also monitors your M.I.B., Medical Information Bureau account, V.A. accounts

What to do if you suspect that you have been hacked

If it seems like only your password has been stolen, first change your password, then clear your cache or history. You might also want to contact some friends on you email list to see if they have received any emails that you did not send out.

What if it appears to be a serious identity theft situation:

Immediately contact your identity theft provider which can advise you, and your credit card companies. Most I.D. Theft programs do not help you repair any credit issues etc. so you would have that responsibility yourself.  A select few companies will make the phone calls for you and restore your credit retroactively.

If you do not have a identity theft program in place; you should contact the FTC and request their reporting forms and help.

In summary, Take every precaution to protect yourself when supplying personal information on social media, group sites, or by email. Maintain a professional identity theft program, and respect that many cyber thieves are professionals that are out to do harm.

Creative Commons Copyright 4/27/2015
This article can be copied or distrubuted as long as it is not altered in any way and is coped in it’s entirety.

The Fastest Growing Crime in The World, Identity Theft
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