More consumers complain to the Federal Trade Commission about
identity theft than about anything else, according to FTC
statistics. To kick off Cyber Security Awareness Month, Experian's
ProtectMyID hired StrategyOne Research to learn more about how
Americans leave themselves vulnerable to fraudulent
charges and other forms of financial fraud. Their results highlight
four critical steps that consumers can take to secure their
Require passwords for mobile devices.
Experian's survey found that more than half of respondents left
phones and laptops unlocked, making personal data available to
thieves. Requiring a pass code or a password upon startup
prevents a stolen phone or computer from turning into a case of
Restrict personal information on social networking
Nearly two-thirds of respondents in Experian's survey posted
their full birth dates on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or other
online services. Yet, many credit card issuers still use date of
birth as a security identifier for updating account information.
Identity theft expert Chuck Whitlock suggests that consumers
think twice before sharing personal information beyond close
family and friends.
Dedicate a single credit card for restaurant
New York City police recently busted a ring of over 100 credit
card "skimmers" who used stolen credit cards to purchase
expensive computers and gadgets for resale overseas. Police
allege that key members of the organization recruited restaurant
workers to copy credit cards while out of patrons' sight. Police
investigators say that using a dedicated account, like a specific
rewards credit card
, limits your exposure to this widespread scam.
Activate tougher security tools.
When online security expert Ron Bowes compiled a list of
passwords revealed during major hacking attacks, even he wasn't
prepared for the number of people who used the number "123456" or
the word "password" to secure their credit card accounts. Bowes
that he suggests consumers use credit card companies that deploy
multi-factor authentication, like a Bank of America service that
sends a text message to a cardholder's mobile phone before
authorizing account changes.
ProtectMyID and other identity theft detection services monitor
credit reports for signs of unauthorized account abuse. However,
NYPD investigators note that most consumers can enable text message
alerts for credit card activity, signaling stolen
usage in real time.