Steps to protect yourself from identity theft

Betty Q. Hixson

It’s Identity Theft Awareness Week and experts are warning of record numbers of data breaches and social media hacking.

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The Identity Theft Resource Center reports data breaches are up 68% and hit an all-time high in 2021. Thieves are using your personal data to steal your identity in many ways.

A 2020 report by Javelin Strategy & Research shows social media users are 30% more likely to be hit by identity theft, with Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram users the most likely.

ITRC says scammers are breaking into social media accounts, then posing as that person to scam their friends and followers, often using the information you have posted about yourself.

“If you have posts about all the charitable work you do, how you volunteer your time and what the causes are that are important to you,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO of ITRC. “That is fodder to that bad actor to say, ‘I’m setting up this charity, Would you like to make a donation?'”  

Javelin reports 68% of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday, 63% shared the name of their high school, and 12% shared their pet’s name.

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To protect your account, ITRC says don’t post personal information, use multifactor authentication, and change your passwords.

“Are we using the same password for all of our social media?” warned Velasquez. “And it’s the same password we use for all of our accounts?”

Another tip to cut down on identity theft, as well as junk mail, is to use disposable email addresses when signing up for things online, such as MailDrop, EmailOnDeck, Guerrilla Mail, ThrowAwayMail, and 10 Minute Mail.  

“They send back, not to your email, but to the disposable email address, which is forwarded to you. So you got what you wanted and never gave away your actual address,” explained Neil Rubenking, Lead Security Analyst for PCMag.

Some credit cards will also let you use a virtual card to mask your number while shopping online, such as Capital One ENO and CitiBank Virtual Credit Card.

“You create the masked credit card for the amount you’re going to spend,” said Rubenking. “So even if the merchant you’re spending it with wants to fake you out, add a couple of zeroes the total amount, the credit card is good for is the amount you’ve chosen to spend.”

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And check your credit reports for fraud.  The offer to check your credit reports weekly for free has been extended through April 2022.  

https://www.fox26houston.com/news/steps-to-protect-yourself-from-identity-theft

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