You’re having a great day, when suddenly you get an email or text alert that your checking account is overdrawn (when you should have plenty of money.) Or you get a call from a bill collector demanding payment for a car you never bought. Welcome to the terrifying, unsettling world of identity theft. According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Survey (an annual report compiled by Javelin Strategy & Research), 15.4 million U.S. residents were victims of identity theft in 2016, up 16 percent from the previous year. While the digital age has improved security in some ways, identity thieves are constantly evolving and finding new ways to score an illegal payday. Here are some new ways these crooks are perpetrating identity theft.
5. Your Smartphone Or Laptop May be ‘Leaking’ Information
Many people are understandably cautious about doing certain online activities, such as checking their bank account, on public WiFi. It’s long been known that cyber thieves can steal sensitive information from someone using public WiFi. But according to Lifelock.com, hackers have found a new way to steal information in public. Using a “side-channel” intercept receiver, cyber thieves search for low-power leaks of information from smartphones and laptops. These leaks, which can include passwords and other sensitive information, can be detected from several feet away … and the victim does not even have to be logged onto WiFi for this information to leak out.
4. Medical Identity Theft Has Doubled in Last 5 Years
According to the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, as of 2014, cases of medical identity theft had nearly doubled over the previous five years. The crime is just what it sounds like — a thief obtains medical services using your health insurance. In the process, you get stuck with who knows what medical treatments on your insurance. Many consumers probably take those Explanation of Benefits statements from their insurance company and toss them in the trash (I’ve already met my deductible for the year, why do I need to read that?). But checking these statements periodically could help you discover any fraud and report it immediately.
3. Slack and Other Business Group Chats Are Vulnerable
Office collaboration tools such as Slack and HipChat have been hacked in the past, and while they’ve taken precautions to prevent future attacks, it goes without saying that sharing passwords, account numbers or other sensitive information in these forums — even in direct messaging with another individual — is not a good idea.
2. The Wired Home Offers New Opportunities For Hackers
Smart-home virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are booming in popularity, and many homes are adding more Internet-connected devices everyday, from TVs and game systems to baby monitors and security systems. All are vulnerable to hackers. A U.S. Senate committee last year even issued a report about online toys, such as dolls, being especially susceptible to hackers.
Some cyber security experts warn it’s only a matter of time before thieves are hacking smart TVs to gain access to home computer networks. Be sure all your devices, such as gaming systems, are set up to receive automatic security firmware updates. Also, consider putting your smart TVs, toys, Google Home and other Internet-enabled devices on a “Guest” account on your WiFi router. That way your banking and other sensitive information could be done on a separate network.
1. Hackers Once Again Eyeing Social Security Numbers
Yes, this method of identity theft is making a comeback. As those counterfeit-resistant, chip-enabled EMV credit cards become more common in the U.S., frustrated cyber thieves have found it more difficult to engage in fraud with existing accounts. According to that aforementioned Javelin Strategy study, new account fraud cases more than doubled from 2014 to 2015. To open a new account, a crook needs a social security number. You’ve probably heard most of the tips about protecting your social security number, but they bear repeating. NEVER carry your Social Security card in your wallet or purse. Be wary of handing out your Social Security number. Is there a legitimate reason a business or anyone else needs the number? And monitor your credit report once or twice a year to look for any suspicious activity.