Happy Halloween! We've made it to the end of cybersecurity month, but we're not out of the woods just yet. We've saved the worst cybersecurity threat of all for last - Identity Theft. Many cyberattacks focus on stealing your identity as the end goal. With it, they can use your information to drain bank accounts, download private files, and even commit fraud. Protecting your identity should be your highest priority when strengthening your digital security; without it, all other security measures will fail. Below are some guidelines that will help keep you secure, but remember that cybersecurity best practices are constantly changing. If you want the highest level of online security for your business without hitting the books daily, contact an iTecs professional.
Prevention is your strongest defense from having your identity stolen. Unfortunately, many of these tips can be time-consuming, which keeps many people from doing them. Hackers rely on the fact that prevention is such a pain and have continued to use many of the same tried and true information-gathering techniques, such as digging through the trash for important information that has been tossed out. Using these techniques, you can stop most cyberattacks before they begin.
No matter how innocuous your junk mail may seem, a potential hacker can use any piece of information about you to build a profile. Credit card offers, political advertisements, and 'Special' offers from retailers you use are all dangerous in the wrong hands. Shred them to ensure this information doesn't leave your house. Check your mail daily or set up a forwarding service to a Post Office Box to prevent a potential hacker from sniping your mailbox. Even trash as innocuous as receipts can be dangerous. If a hacker knows where you shop, they know what sort of charges you'll be most likely to ignore should they show up on a bank statement. Lastly, keep any important papers like birth certificates, Social security numbers and other government documentation in a Safety Deposit Box at a bank or something similar. Should this information be stolen in a break-in, it can make the devastating incident of a home burglary even more traumatic and damaging.
False charges, double charges, and more happen every day. Many of these aren't suspicious and can be corrected by your bank. This makes it an excellent incident for a hacker to hide behind. Keep a budget and understand your monthly charges. Not only is this a good idea generally, but you'll also become knowledgeable about your spending habits and better recognize charges not done by you or a spouse. Consider running a monthly credit report or enlisting in a credit monitoring service; insurance like this can be invaluable in a data breach. Reviewing financial and medical statements for fraudulent activities can take time, but the gains of saved money and added protection are invaluable.
If you're one of the billions that use a social media service daily, you have publicly available information about yourself that can be used against you. Reconsider what you post about yourself or your friends online. Even something as innocent as a post about a vacation can alert a potential hacker that you won't be at home, allowing them to either dig through your trash or attempt to make a false charge on a bank card from an unknown location as you are currently traveling.
When you're on the street and using an ATM, make sure you don't have any onlookers. Use your free hand to cover up your PIN so it can't be casually observed. If you log in to important websites, be sure you have a Multi-Factor Authentication set up. Google and Microsoft have free authenticator apps that are far more secure than one-time codes sent through text, so consider upgrading to one of these if you haven't already.
Update your software and applications as often as possible. Security holes are among the first things pushed in updates, so keep your apps current and prevent attacks before they start. Exercise good online hygiene and don't open or click unknown email attachments or links. If possible, don't use a public WiFi spot; if you do, don't go to a sensitive site like your bank's website. Public WiFi is a dangerous vector and should always be treated as an attack zone.
Sometimes no matter how well you prepare, you can still become a victim. Don't panic; you can do plenty of things to prevent your assailant from getting far, but you'll want to have this information readily available should this happen. The last thing you want to do is forget where you put vital information like this when the incident occurs. Keep this information where you'll remember how to access it, and it wouldn't hurt to put some cash with it; you may need to use it while waiting for your new bank cards to come in.
First, you'll need to freeze your bank and credit accounts. Contact your bank first and let them know what happened; they'll have a procedure for you to follow in this event and will tell you what you need to do to replace any credit or debit cards. Next, contact the major credit bureaus and freeze your accounts with them. We've gathered the links you'll need to create a credit freeze with Equifax, Experian, Innovis, TransUnion, and the National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange.
With that done, you can begin enrolling in systems designed to help you get your data back. Start with IdentityTheft.gov, and fill out their online report. If you call their number, you won't get a copy of your ID Theft report, but doing it online ensures you get one. Creating an account with IdentityTheft.gov has other benefits, such as access to pre-filled letters to send to creditors to let them know what happened, a recovery plan to help you through this situation, and a tracking system that will help you keep on top of what has occurred during your data breach.
If you had any physical identification stolen, USA.gov has a list of links for you should you need to replace necessary documentation such as a Driver's License, State ID, Medicare Card, Passport, and more. If you have a specific kind of fraud happening, Unemployment identity theft, Medical identity theft, or Tax identity theft, there are specific organizations to contact. For example, you can report unemployment fraud through your state's labor department if someone collects government benefits in your name. Medical identity theft can be reported to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. Tax ID Theft can be reported to the IRS Guide to Identity Theft.
A few final tips to wrap up. Elders are often targets of identity theft for various reasons, and because of this, there are additional protections available to them. Contact your state's Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program if you suspect abuse from a nursing home or similar center. As advocates for residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, they are uniquely equipped to help you or your parents through this difficult situation.
If you know the person that has your identity, you may be able to stop further abuse by reporting the incident to your local police. Your state's Attorney General will also have resources available if you need a legal advocate to assist you.
That's a whole lot to take in. Executing just a few of these steps can be daunting, especially amid an identity attack—your ability to work through bureaucracies while in a stressful situation will be tested. You might also find that the systems aren't as clear cut as they should be, your paperwork may get delayed or lost, and you could be liable for damages caused by your hacker while your identity was stolen. This is why we work as hard as we do to keep your Cybersecurity strong - having a solid defense prevents you from having to keep track of and execute any of the measures listed above. By practicing good digital hygiene and utilizing a Cybersecurity firm like iTecs, you'll never need to worry about the horrors of having your identity stolen. Stay safe out there; contact our team today!
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