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The Resource Center Identity Theft & Protection | post

10 Easy Ways to Fall Victim to Identity Theft

by Neal O'Farrell on

Unfortunately, there is a lot of consumer apathy about the topic of identity theft and credit fraud. So, Neal O’Farrell, Intersections’ Consumer Security Adviser is back today with his ten tips that are guaranteed to make you an easy mark for identity theft.

Continue to believe that it can’t happen to you. Apathy is the biggest enemy, whether it's towards your health, wealth, or security. If you don't take security seriously, refuse to accept that you could fall victim to identity theft, and fail to take responsibility for your own security, you stand a much greater chance of being victimized.

Assume zero liability means you have nothing to lose. Zero liability has given many consumers a very false sense of security, and the belief that if identity theft costs them nothing, they have nothing to worry about. But zero liability does not mean zero risk, zero responsibility, or zero loss. Zero liability won't cover your costs, the emotional harm, time off work, or damage to your credit.

And just because your bank or credit card company says you won't be on the hook for credit fraud losses, that doesn't mean you won't fall victim and face losses. Zero liability can be discretionary, and in many cases financial institutions can take weeks and often months before they return any lost funds or wipe away any debts. And when it comes to compromised bank accounts, small business owners don't enjoy zero liability at all.

Don't monitor your credit, or watch it constantly. If you're not watching you credit reports like a hawk, you're unlikely to spot the tell-tale signs that someone is trying to steal your identity. It could start with a number of applications for new credit, which can be accepted or declined. A determined thief will keep trying, and if you are not watchful, a simple fraud attempt could easily turn into a more serious identity theft.

Surf where and how you like. So many identity thefts are now being triggered by malware that lies in wait on infected web sites. With so many legitimate web sites are now believed to be infected with malware, you need to be ultra cautious where you surf, what you click on, and what you download. If you don't, you increase the chance that very nasty malware will work its way on to your computer, steal your information, and hijack your identity.

Talk too much, especially on Facebook. Another sure-fire way to lose your identity is blabbing too much. Facebook has become a haven for identity thieves looking for all that personal information that they need to steal your identity and that you might be giving away free. Things like family background and history (your mother's maiden name), where you were born, where you went to school, where you work and worked, and your date of birth - all of immense value to thieves. Here's a great article to help keep you safe - Ten Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.

Get careless with your password. A number of recent high profile attacks have exposed a number of things we've known all along - that most users still use very weak and easy to crack passwords, and they use the same passwords for multiple web sites. So if a hacker gets your password in an attack on one site, they could do a lot more damage.

Trust too much, especially when it comes to email. Phishing continues to be a major threat, and getting more sophisticated every day. If you're not aware of what phishing is, can't recognize the tell-tale signs of a phishing attempt, and don't know how to respond (or not respond), you stand a much greater chance of being hooked by "phishy" bait. If you aren't sure, the Anti-Phishing Working Group has compiled a list of recommendations to help you avoid this type of scam.

Don't properly protect your credit cards and accounts. Just like with your credit reports, if you're not watching your bank account and credit card statements constantly and carefully, you won't spot any signs that your account is being tapped or dripped, or those small test transactions thieves will often use to test your vigilance before launching a major assault.

Don't manage your personal information properly. A very easy way to fall victim to identity theft is to not protect your paperwork and possessions. That includes hiding personal documentation in the home (especially financial statements, tax returns, and anything with your Social Security number on it), protecting personal documents at work or when travelling, and not protecting your mail.

Don't Think Security First. The key to staying off the radar and out of the traps of thieves is to think security first. That means constant vigilance - don't worry, it eventually becomes second nature - so that you think about security before you click on an attachment and not afterwards, think about security before you create or use a password, think about checking your credit reports before you find out there's something wrong, and so on.

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