Identity theft is a 21st century epidemic, and we need to face up to this fact quickly to have any hope of protecting ourselves. According to the Unisys Security Index, which tracks consumer security concerns every six months and yields valuable insights into the issues that matter to people today, 85% are concerned about ID theft, of which 55% are seriously worried. It also found that 65% of consumers are worried about shopping or banking online.
This level of concern is indicative of the ease at which fraudsters can access people’s personal information.
In this age of collaboration and transparency, we unhesitatingly share our personal details, such as date of birth; photographs; career backgrounds; and updates on where we are and what we’re doing – including our holiday plans – online. While this form of online networking brings so many benefits, it also inadvertently invites people to steal our identity and take our money.
The end result can be extremely stressful in terms of dealing with an invasive and upsetting experience, as well as the time-consuming negotiations that ensue. Banks are increasingly placing the onus on us to prove we’ve installed the latest anti-virus software and acted responsibly with our personal information before they will authorise a refund.
There are several things we can do to minimise the threat of ID theft. For instance, we can tick all the privacy boxes on our social networking site of choice, while recognising that a skilled impersonator could still find a way in even if we do block outsiders from viewing our page.
We also need to consider how information can be pieced together. For example, by revealing our age on Facebook and using it to invite people to birthday parties, it’s relatively easy to determine our date of birth, which is an important identifier when accessing personal accounts.
We’re used to TV ads telling us to lock our doors and close our windows. The same applies to our online behaviour – even more so. The question is how many impersonators will we tolerate until we put ID security first?