If you aren’t one of the 12.7 million victims of identity fraud last year, it’s easy to think you’re in the clear—that you’ve got enough on your plate and don’t need to worry about this headache.
But if you’ve been a victim, you know it’s a headache worth thinking about. Because once you’re a victim, if you weren’t prepared, there’s not enough aspirin in your medicine cabinet to make this headache go away.
2014 fraud losses totaled $16 billion
A new, independent study by Javelin Strategy & Research finds some bright spots in identity fraud trends—evidence that the combined efforts of industry, consumers, and monitoring and protection systems are catching fraud more quickly. Still, there was, on average, a new identity theft victim every two seconds in 2014, and fraud losses for the year totaled $16 billion.
If yours is among that $16 billion, you know it’s real money. And you’re having to take action.
Victims avoiding breached merchants
Last year, big-name retailers seemed to be revealing data breaches with a higher frequency and broader impact than we’ve seen before. Those breaches had a great impact on consumer purchasing decisions. According to this Javelin study, 28 percent of fraud victims say they avoided certain merchants post-fraud.
And get this: Individuals whose credit or debit cards were breached in the past year were nearly three times more likely to be a fraud victim. This highlights the need for increased security, vigilance and quick response—by retailers, financial institutions and, well, you. While those big brands have their reputations to worry about, you have your finances, good name and credit rating to protect.
New-account fraud down, but taking a year or more to discover
What’s worse is when a fraudster creates a new account in your name—for example, opening a mobile account, setting up a new bank account or financing a car. Javelin found that this type of fraud, “new-account fraud,” reached record lows in 2014. But – it also showed that victims of new-account fraud are three times more likely to take a year or more to discover that their identities were misused. The message here? You need to actively monitor your identities and accounts.
So even if you’ve escaped being an identity theft victim so far, the number of data breaches probably makes you wonder how long your good fortune can last. A few recommendations:
- Protect your personal information. Account numbers, such as your credit card number, can be replaced fairly easily with a call to your bank, but it’s much more difficult to change your Social Security number. You can protect identity information by safeguarding it with good passwords, both online and on your phone. Pay particular attention to safeguarding your email accounts, which probably contain a lot of personal information, maybe even credentials for other accounts. Your financial accounts should also be high on your protection list, including your bank, credit card and brokerage accounts. And don’t forget your social media accounts. Make sure your new passwords are long and strong.
- Be suspicious. If you find transactions on your account statements that seem odd, call your financial institution. Additionally, be careful of people or institutions who ask you to give up or enter your information. Protect yourself against phishing and fraudulent phone calls by not divulging account or password information unless you are the one who initiated contact.
- Subscribe to identity protection. If a retailer or employer offers you free credit monitoring as a result of a breach, take advantage of it. But recognize that credit monitoring doesn’t take the place of comprehensive identity theft protection. And yes, I’d recommend looking at comprehensive identity theft protection. Like LifeLock. We can’t prevent all identity theft, but we’ll be there for you, if it happens, with our $1 million service guarantee.
And if you’re a business looking to protect your members, customers and/or employees—and your brand—take a look at LifeLock Business Solutions. We have proactive, comprehensive planning and services to help you minimize loss, restore confidence and avoid unnecessary costs.
Posted by Eric Warbasse, LifeLock Financial Services and Breach Response