The latest news in regards to businesses being hacked, with millions of consumer data being stolen in each case, consumers have made the threat of identity theft their number one concern as we end 2014 and head into 2015. What’s worse, 2014 was the second year in a row in which identity theft has affected millions of Americans losing more than $18 billion dollars because of it.
The threat is enough that even Washington is taking some action against it, with President Obama signing a consumer initiative early in October in order to help consumers deal and fight back against identity theft.
What exactly is identity theft? The basic concept is someone using another person’s identity in order to achieve certain things, usually financial means, such as obtaining credit cards or having the ability to get into a banking account. Because all of these things are done in the original person’s name, in many cases it can take years for that person to bounce back from debts that are accrued; some have trouble getting or keeping their homes, being able to apply for jobs or even rent a car or an apartment.
And it’s not just consumers that need to be worried – a local construction company in Tennessee was besieged by hackers, costing the company $327,000 in bank and payroll costs.
The Identity Theft Resource Centre compiled a list of some six hundred companies that have been breached in 2014 alone, including the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service, AT&T, K-Mart, Cox Communications, Home Depot, Target, and Dairy Queen. Hackers attacked these companies and others, obtaining credit and personal information from customers, though it has yet to be seen if the information has been used in fraudulent scams.
Consumers and businesses should be extremely worried, as the initial cost of identity theft is nothing as bad as the continuing harm that it can cause. While it’s much easier for victims to report and file complaints against fraudulent claims, it still takes time to file reports and thus prove that the victim is not the one who’s being fraudulent; for some people, the ability to clear their names take years, even decades, to recover, especially if thousands or millions of dollars have been spent.
Despite the fact that identity theft is on the rise, more and more consumers are doing less about protecting themselves from becoming victims. 45% of Americans still continue to use the same password for multiple accounts, ignoring the consequences of all accounts being accessed by one password; over 52% don’t check their credit reports for fraudulent claims. It may seem that the majority of these are those who may not have online access or are new to the ways of the Internet. It’s true that 42% of those fifty years or older have not taken advantage of the quick access to mobile or online banking, but those younger than fifty are equally guilty as well.
54% of them have left some personal information within their vehicles.
So how does someone prevent identity theft? First and foremost, change your password. Every website and account should have a completely different password; while daunting with the many different accounts that people may have, there are ways in which to keep track, such as password managers like LastPass, which generate passwords for you. Another help is to check and monitor your credit report from the three major reporting agencies – which are completely free.
Not only is identity theft on the rise, it has also garnered more attention than before – Washington is finally taking steps to help consumers who have been affected, while also helping to prevent it; Hollywood has brought attention to it in forms of different movies, such as Identity Theft and in episodes from popular shows, like Bones.
This Blog was brought to you by Nervepoint Technologies and its CEO, Lee David Painter. With over 20 years of industry experience as a pioneer in IT Security, Lee developed the world’s first OpenSource browser-based SSL VPN (SSL-Explorer). Today, Lee runs Nervepoint Technologies, a leader in Password Self-Service solutions.