If you are a smartphone user and an active social networker, then you more vulnerable to identity thefts, a recent study points out.
According to the 2012 Identity Fraud Report released by Javelin Strategy & Research, more than 11.6 million adults in the United States became a victim of identity fraud, with the consumers’ social media and mobile activities further putting them at greater risk.
Javelin Strategy & Research, which conducted an address-based survey of 5,022 U.S. consumers, says that the number of identity fraud incidents have increased by 13 percent over the past year.
LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook users had the highest incidence of fraud. Among those who were studied,68 percent of people with social media profiles shared their birthday information (with 45 percent sharing month, date and year); 63 percent shared their high school name; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared their pet’s name- all examples of personal information a company would use to verify a person’s identity.
LinkedIn users were twice as likely to report fraud attempts, than the users of other social networks. Additionally, those who regularly check-in with GPS-enabled information also reported fraud rates more than double the average.
The survey found that seven percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud, with 32 percent of them never updating to a new operating system when it becomes available, 62 percent not using a password on their home screen—enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost; and 32 percent saving login information on their device.
Javelin Strategy & Research suggests few steps that one can follow to prevent, detect and resolve the cases of identity thefts. Take a look at these here:
1. Keep personal data private—At home, at work and on your mobile devices, secure your personal and financial records in a locked storage device or behind a password. Of those consumers who knew how the crimes were committed, nine percent of all identity fraud crimes were committed by someone previously known to the victim in 2011. Avoid mailing checks to pay bills or to deposit funds in your banking account. Use online bill payment on a secure Internet access (not a public Wi-Fi hotspot) instead and direct deposit payroll checks.
2. Be social, be responsible—While social networks are popular, be careful about publicly exposing personal information that is typically used for authentication (full birthdate, high school name). This applies to all social networks.
3. Use mobile devices responsibly—Mobile devices are a treasure trove of information for fraudsters. The “always on” functionality of mobile devices provides fraudsters with new avenues for securing information. Be sure of the applications you download, the data you share over public Wi-Fi and where you leave your devices.
4. Ask questions— Before providing any information on mobile phones, social media sites and transactions sites, question who is asking for the information? Why do they need it? How is the information being used? If volunteering information, ask yourself if you have more to gain or more to lose by sharing personal and unnecessary details.
5. Take control—In 2011, 43 percent of fraud was first detected by the victims. By monitoring accounts online at bank and credit card websites, and setting up alerts that can be sent via e-mail and to a mobile device, consumers can more quickly detect if they are a victim of identity fraud and stop it early.
6. Learn about methods to protect your identity—There is a wide array of services available to consumers who want extra protection and peace of mind. These include credit monitoring, fraud alerts, credit freezes and database scanning. Some services can be obtained for a fee and others at no cost. These services can detect potentially fraudulent information from credit reports, public records, and online activity that are difficult to track on your own.
7. Report problems immediately—Work with your bank, credit union or protection services provider to take advantage of resolution services, loss protections and methods to secure your accounts. A fast response can enhance the likelihood that losses are reduced, and law enforcement can pursue fraudsters so they experience consequences for their actions.
8. Take any data breach notification seriously—If you receive a data breach notification, take it very seriously as you are at much higher risk according to the 2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier. If you receive an offer from your financial institution or retailer for a free monitoring service after a breach, you should take advantage of the offer or closely monitor your accounts directly.