Yes, identity fraud is SO common that someone becomes a victim every two seconds. The 2014 Identity Fraud Study, as reported on, turned up some alarming results. the dollar amount stolen had decreased over the year preceding the study, the number of victims had increased. People at highest risk were ages 35 to 44.

Account takeover—when the thief takes over a pre-existing account—made up 28 percent of ID fraud losses in 2013. But the greatest risk factor for becoming a victim of identity fraud is the data breach. In that year, 30 percent of people who were notified of a data breach became an ID fraud victim.

Identity fraud is associated with credit cards, but this type of crime can also involve hijacking someone’s PayPal account, or account on Amazon and eBay.

How to Protect Yourself

Javelin Strategy & Research, who conducted the study, recommends the following:

  • Never use public Wi-Fi (at least use a VPN)
  • Shred old sensitive documents.
  • Change the passwords on all of your accounts often.
  • See which accounts offer two-factor authentication, then set it up. This way you’ll know if an unauthorized person is trying to access your account.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software for all of your devices.
  • Monitor your accounts every week. Use mobile apps to stay on top of them.
  • Use direct deposit for payroll checks.
  • Don’t permit your Social Security Number to be used as an authenticating factor, because it can’t be changed, like a username or password can. Ninety-six percent of major credit card issuers and 80 percent of the top 25 banks will permit access to an account via the SSN. You should inform the institution to notate that you will never provide this number to verify your identity.
  • Arrange for your financial institutions to send you alerts (e-mail, text, phone call) when anomalous activity occurs, such as a purchase made in two countries only a few hours apart, or any purchase over a certain amount. Ask about additional forms of fraud detection as well.
  • If you suspect fraud, immediately report it.

If you receive notification of a data breach, you’re at higher risk for fraud; crack down on monitoring your accounts.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to discussing identity theft prevention.

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