By Gabby Beltran, Identity Theft Resource Center
One of the common recommendations for individuals when it comes to protecting their identity is to safeguard their information and watch what they post over the internet. With an increase in Smartphone and mobile device usage, accessibility to social networking sites has literally translated to having something within one’s easy reach – the tap of our fingertips. Social networking sites have revolutionized how we communicate and what we do on the internet. As a result, the protection of the information stored in these devices or shared through these forms of internet communication has become a growing concern.
As a Victim Advisor one of the primary responsibilities to the victim is to provide the victim with the information necessary to guide them through the process of resolving their case. The mitigation process for victims of identity theft can sometimes be somewhat complicated and time consuming. However, as an Advisor, I have come to see the new emerging cases where victims struggle.
I have seen cases from individuals having their personal information taken along with pictures to create unauthorized facebook accounts, or any other type of internet account. Some of these accounts have been used to spread derogatory comments about the victim’s employer and co-workers – accounts have been used to slander others. In regards to their cases, the primary question victims ask is how they can remove the information from the site or the internet. Because these cases are becoming more common, it is very important to reiterate over and over that personal information should be kept private. Social network accounts should be made private and users shouldn’t add ‘friends’ they do not know. Privacy settings should become a priority for users. A good number of these cases have managed to overlook privacy settings. In addition, some of the cases I have seen have included images and names of victims being posted on adult sites. In the end, the common denominator of all these cases is that victims struggle in removing the information and getting the sites to cancel and remove the accounts.
Another way someone’s personal information is targeted is through phishing attempts. I have had several cases where victims have replied to emails or clicked on the links within these emails, which re-directs them to sites that are bogus sites. These attacks most often take the form of ‘alleged’ legitimate financial institution emails requesting that the consumer’s personal information be updated. Most of the time, the information that is being requested to update is the name, date of birth, Social Security number, account number, password, or PIN. It is important to understand that the protection of the data is of primary concern, especially when it involves networks connected to the internet. Do not respond to these requests. Financial institutions do not perform two-way communications via the email platform, especially, when it comes to personal identifying information.
Basically, it boils down to protecting yourself while being online. Stay alert and do not fall for scams – if it looks too good to be true it probably is. If you are unsure about a specific email and/or link or you did not request it – verify the validity of it or do not click on it. Also, it comes with great repetition, but securing your computer or mobile device is very important. Become familiar with what malware can do to your devices and your personal information. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi networks – they are not safe for financial transactions or sharing personal information. Ultimately, be online-smart! If you are using a Smartphone or mobile device – try to understand the apps that you install. What permissions do they require? What type of information will they have access to? Do they use the internet? If you are using your computer, understand that when using the internet you should visit secure sites. Bogus sites may install viruses or spyware on your computer or mobile device. Maintain your devices up-to-date on security software.