ODESSA, Texas (Nexstar) – When committing fraud, thieves are looking to get as much information as they can.
People don’t have to be on the street to be victims of theft. It can happen at home, while shopping, or even while browsing the internet.
But taking a few precautionary steps can help people prevent identity theft and credit card fraud.
“Every two seconds, an individual becomes a victim to identity or credit card fraud,” said Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz, lead faculty of cyber security at the University of Phoenix and consultant at Trace3. “There’s no such thing as 100% security.”
The holiday season isn’t a time to let your guard down. Theft can happen anywhere and at anytime. There are some major red flags to look out for, if you’re shopping online for the holidays.
“A lot of the great deals will come through your email inbox. The bad actors like to capitalize on emails because it’s relatively easy to send them out,” Benoit-Kurtz said. “It’s very easy to make that email look like a legitimate email.”
Stephanie recommends, avoid clicking on a link shared in an email if you don’t know the company or vendor well enough, despite how good of a deal it may appear. If you’re on a website, don’t click on any pop-up windows.
Identity theft can happen in several different ways. A personal device can be compromised by viruses, malware, or ransomware. Then, data can be stolen.
The second way is if a government or large institution has a data breach. Stephanie says that stolen information can be used in a follow-up attack to steal identity information. Thieves may use your identity for loans, government assistance, and even healthcare benefits.
It can be months to even years before you recognize you’re a victim.
Stephanie says the best thing to do is to monitor your credit report, or subscribe to a legitimate service that can check for identity fraud.
If you’re already a victim and you know where your identity has been used, then it’s best to report the fraud to the company where your information was used, if possible.
Protecting against identity fraud can be more challenging than protecting yourself against credit card theft, which Stephanie says is pretty cut and dry. Credit card fraud victims should file a report with their bank immediately.
“The notifications are going to go out, something’s going to be flagged, it’s going to be seen, and it’s going to be cut off,” Benoit-Kurtz said, in reference to credit card fraud.
These thieves are looking for information they can monetize. They don’t discriminate. For example, kids can become easy targets. Children can be oblivious to scams and are known for clicking on whatever interests them online. They can fall victim to identity theft and cause their parents to, as well.
“One of my tips for adults is… don’t do financial transactions on machines that your kids use,” Benoit-Kurtz said.
Here are some other tips Stephanie shared if you have fallen victim to theft:
Consider changing your passwords. Then, ensure your anti-virus software – on your PC or on your personal devices – are up to date.
If you don’t check for viruses and those viruses stay on your computer, then thieves may be able to steal your new passwords, and you’ll be victim once again.
With more people online during the pandemic, Stephanie says there were 4,800,000 cases of identity and credit card fraud last year. She says consumers paid $56 billion in losses due to fraud. 29% of those thefts were repeat victims.