On July 29th Capital One experienced one of the largest security data breaches in American history. Over 100 MILLION Americans had their private information stolen, including social security numbers, birth dates, personal addresses, income history and even credit scores. If you applied for a credit card with Capital One or were a customer between 2005-2019, then the chances are your personal identity data was compromised.
It’s impossible in today’s digital and cloud-based world to avoid transmitting a certain amount of your personal info online. We share our information willingly and unwillingly (who reads the terms and conditions when they download a new app or use social media, right?). With more than 1.4 million online frauds reported in the previous year, we should have safeguards for protecting our digital footprints. Although you cannot prevent a technology data breach, like what happened with Capital One, there are certain things that you can do to reduce your exposure when one does occur.
Implement these practices to protect your identity and avoid hackers stealing your identity to apply for credit cards, make online purchases or even sell your identity on the dark web.
Leave No Paper Trail
Going paperless significantly reduces the chance of identity theft. You might be surprised to learn how many credit card frauds occur due to identity thieves stealing mail from the garbage can or mailbox. Your mail (whether it’s a spam credit card offer or electricity bill) has vital information that identity thieves can use themselves or sell to someone else. You can put an end to this problem by making a switch to paperless billing.
Any mail that must come via snail mail, should be shredded before you throw it in the trash to prevent identity theft. There have been reports of identity thieves (we’ll call them “the garbage ghosts”) who have mapped out crime routes that coordinate with the days of trash collection. They just take the top bag out of every garbage can in a drive-by route at night and sift through it when they are home. They are in and out quickly with no trace of theft. In fact, the victims may not even know their identity was stolen for weeks or months. The odds are in their favor that they will acquire enough info on someone in those garbage bags to apply for a credit card or go on an online shopping spree.
Be Wary of Impersonators
Knowing whom you are dealing with reduces the risk of your identity landing in the wrong hands. Giving personal info over the internet, on the phone or through the mail is risky no matter how safe people claim it to be. Identity thieves are always lurking around the corner, waiting for someone to take a misstep. When you receive an email from your bank, credit card company or others requesting a “click to reply”- check the actual link address to verify it is from the authentic company and not a fraud that is phishing for your personal information. The scammer emails are designed to look EXACTLY like the company’s branding, colors even font type design to fool you.
Call your bank (and don’t use the phone number provided in the email, silly girl). Alternatively, go to your bank’s website and login through that path rather than through the link in an email.
Use Technology to Fight Hackers
Securing your browser should always be high on your priority list if you want to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. Look for the lock icon that is present on your browser. Press it before sending delicate information. The lock icon is there for encrypting your information, essentially making it secure from the hands of impersonators and online frauds. In today’s cyber-theft environment, we strongly suggest that you purchase a VPN (Virtual Processing Network) and begin using it on all your devices. In simple terms, a VPN jumbles all the info and data that you access or send on the internet path between your device and the website you are viewing. This layer of cyber security keeps hackers from grabbing your data on its’ journey.
If you are using the same password for most of your accounts, shame on you mama! It’s like putting all your eggs in one basket and if someone (cough…. like Capital One) exposes your password, Guess what? The hackers now have your password to 10 other accounts too. The biggest obstacle is no one can remember 50+ different passwords. No worries. You don’t have to! Using a password manager will generate a unique password for each of your accounts and remembers them all for you. Most of them work seamlessly across all your devices as well.
USE TWO-STEP AUTHENTICATION
Most accounts these days have a 2-step authentication option for users. This is a crucial feature that completely shuts down if someone fails to enter the correct information that the user has set for it. The name of this feature stems from its function that asks users to prove two factors for granting access to their accounts from two different sources.
So essentially, there are two steps of verification that one must go through to login and access the private information on the accounts. The first step is normally the password or the pin code, and the second step is usually a confirmation from a second device that you have set up in the security settings for your account. It’s a good idea to take the time to set this up for each of your online accounts.
NEVER IGNORE THE FINE PRINT
The Capital One data breach should be a wake-up call for people who do not take their online identities seriously. By following the tips mentioned above, you can drastically reduce your chances of being the victim of identity theft. Identity theft is no joke. It can cost you countless hours, funds and headaches to get straightened out. It can destroy your credit worthiness and you may even pay higher interest rates on loans. We should practice all the precautionary measures we can for avoiding it.
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