Increase of Identity Theft Crimes in 2011

For many, a background or credit check is often the first instance identity theft becomes evident. As you wonder why your credit score dropped when you’ve had no debt and paid all bills on time, additional accounts in your name – sometimes, even mortgages – surface. While, at this point, contacting the credit bureaus and resolving to purge your record of false, inaccurate, and, in some cases, career-destroying information is absolutely a must, how does someone obtain your personal information and end up using it so confidently yet wantonly?

According to a Reuters piece, claims of identity theft surged in 2011, with 12 million Americans victims during that time. Although, the article mentions, credit card companies monitor accounts better, hackers or thieves refined and shifted their strategies to other media, including usurping data from a network, stealing smartphones, and scanning social media accounts for individuals’ personal information.

Individuals who find their data stolen are 9.5 times more likely to experience identity theft. In these instances, however, the user or consumer is rarely to blame and, in fact, often entrusts a large corporate infrastructure with personal details, be it credit card or social security numbers or medical records. Large companies or organizations, such as PlayStation in 2011, combat these attacks by implementing effective network security policies that include regular vulnerability audits.

In other instances the Reuters piece mentions, individuals have more control. Smartphones, particularly, are an easy source for a hacker or thief to obtain and exploit an individual’s information – unless the device is password protected. Free apps, as well, may be a hidden threat, and what’s seemingly innocuous is, in fact, a disguised data monitoring program.

Third, social media’s increased popularity ends up often as misuse. Those on Facebook, Twitter, or another platform are advised to post as little personal information as possible. Telephone numbers, social security numbers, addresses, and birthdays should never end up in a profile or a status update, as a hacker, surreptitiously observing, could find it, assume an identity, and possibly wreck your credit and reputation.

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