According to the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. consumers reported more than 1.1 million cases of identity theft in 2022, with credit card fraud, bank fraud, and loan or lease fraud being the leading types reported.
And in an effort to help consumers avoid falling victim to this often-costly type of crime, Arthur State Bank has published several past blog articles offering guidance on ways to avoid identity theft, including:
- 8 Ways to Protect Yourself Against ID Theft
- Step Up the Safety of Your Credit Cards With These 9 Security-Focused Tips
- 7 Simple and Effective Ways to Protect Yourself From Cybercrime
How to avoid identity theft carried out via 3 common tactics
In this blog article, we’ll take a deeper dive into a few of the common ways criminals can steal your sensitive personal information, along with how to protect your identity against them. Consider these three leading tactics criminals employ to gain access to your personal details and some ways you can combat them:
- Data breaches: One of the top ways criminals can get their hands on your (and other consumers’) sensitive personal details — which can then be used to perpetuate identity theft — data breaches are largely outside of consumers’ control. These occur when hackers illegally gain access to the computer network of a company that is legitimately storing customers’ personal or financial details. Such breaches are typically blamed on the company whose network has been illegally accessed, and most businesses employ strict security and training measures to prevent them from happening. When they do occur, data breaches can lead to thousands or even millions of consumers’ personal data being compromised, depending on the size of the company and the pervasiveness of the data breach.
What you can do to protect yourself: For consumers, data breaches can be among the most difficult means of identity theft to avoid. This is because, when we provide our personal and financial details to the companies we do business with, we must trust that these organizations will take all the necessary steps to protect our information. And while we may not be able to prevent such data breaches from taking place, we can take steps to raise our awareness of such breaches and minimize their impact on us when they do occur.
One way to do this is to sign up for a credit monitoring-service such as Identity Guard, Experian IdentityWorks or Equifax’s ID Watchdog. By quickly providing you with alerts when there are changes to your credit profile (such as when new lines of credit are opened) and by monitoring the dark web for signs of theft or fraud associated with your identity, these services can make it easier to protect yourself against identity theft. Further, such services often provide helpful fraud-resolution services for members, along with insurance coverage that reimburses members for any ID theft-related losses they may suffer. Another way to protect yourself against the damage that data breaches can cause is to regularly review your credit reports for errors and unauthorized activity. As required by law, consumers are entitled to receive a free copy of their credit report once a year from each of the United States’ three major credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- Dumpster diving: When consumers throw bills, financial statements, or other documents and records containing personal, work and/or financial details into the trash can or recycling bin, they could unwittingly be providing criminals with the information needed to steal their identities. This is because, by collecting these documents via a tactic known as “dumpster diving,” criminals can gather a range of sensitive information about their targets, such as their account numbers, phone lists, calendars and more. And by putting together the pieces needed to duplicate your personal profile — such as where you live, work, play and bank — these criminals can eventually gain access to your financial accounts, social media accounts and more. Or they can even use this information to open new accounts in your name without your knowledge.
What you can do to protect yourself: To prevent potential criminals from accessing your personally identifiable information via dumpster diving, always shred any documents containing sensitive details with a cross-cut shredder before throwing them away or recycling them. This type of shredder will cut any paper documents run through them into pieces so tiny that they are nearly impossible to reassemble into a legible format, rendering them useless to any criminals who may get their hands on them. For consumers who don’t own a shredder, many communities offer local shred days, at which attendees can bring in documents for shredding (typically) free of charge. To find one in your area, keep an eye out for shred day announcements from your local municipalities, which often announce these in the local newspaper, on social media or on their websites. Also, to help reduce the risk of dumpster diving, try to keep your outside trash can and recycling container stored in a well-lit area that sees lots of traffic if possible. Criminals are less likely to dig through these containers if they’re likely to be noticed in the act.
- Phishing: When engaging in phishing, criminals attempt to trick consumers into providing their personal or financial details by posing as a legitimate business or organization via sending fake emails or texts (also known as smishing), or via making deceptive phone calls to the targeted consumer. The details sought will typically include credit card information, banking information, account passwords or other personally identifiable information, and the criminals often employ fake websites to make their ploys more convincing. And consumers who provide these details are often unaware they’ve fallen victim to a scam until they start getting billed for products or services they never purchased, or receive payment requests for accounts they never opened.
What you can do to protect yourself: To avoid falling victim to phishing scams, always be skeptical of requests for financial or personal information made via emails, texts and/or phone calls — especially when you didn’t initiate the communications. Legitimate businesses and organizations will almost never reach out and request such sensitive information via these means (and in addition, they should already have these details on file). If you receive an email or text directing you to a website, always be wary of the address you’re being led to, as it could be an imposter web address leading to a fake page that attempts to look official. Further, never download email or text attachments you’re unfamiliar with before first verifying that the sender is legitimate, as the attachment(s) could be infected with malware created to gather your personal information or damage your computing device. If you receive a phone call asking for sensitive personal information, let the caller know that you will call back. Then contact the business or organization by directly dialing the phone number listed on its official website, on its billing statement or in the phone book.
Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.