In 2016, over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft, up 16 percent from the previous year.
News of data breaches and the risks of identity theft and fraud persist, but consumers’ vigilance and awareness haven’t kept pace. A national survey by Experian revealed that not only is America’s collective guard down, but people feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to identity theft.
The survey proves that complexity, inconvenience and odds of becoming an identity fraud victim have discouraged consumers from making identity protection best practices part of their lives. While 84 percent of respondents acknowledge being concerned about the security of personal information online, almost two-thirds (64 percent) agree it’s too much of a hassle to constantly worry about securing personal information online. The majority say staying on top of financial transactions is a challenge (53 percent), and nearly half (48 percent) don’t check their credit reports regularly for errors or suspicious activity.
Not to mention, there is a broad misconception that exist regarding identity theft and fraud. In fact, a majority (56 percent) believe the risk of identity theft goes away over time, and more than half (52 percent) are convinced it’s not likely they will become a victim of identity theft. Many think banks and credit card companies monitor their accounts, so they don’t have to worry about identity theft (53 percent), and one in 10 respondents believe they aren’t at risk because they have bad credit or don’t have enough money.
“Consumers seem to be tuning out rather than tuning in,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of identity protection at Experian in a recent interview with Inside Counsel. “Nothing replaces an individual’s active role in identity protection, but there are products.”
In 2016, over 15 million Americans were victims of identity theft, up 16 percent from the previous year. “Understanding the risks, being aware of the dark web, and researching what can help monitor and mitigate fraud aren’t optional these days. Unfortunately, the survey suggests consumers don’t consider these necessities a priority, which makes life easier for fraudsters,” he said.
So far this year, per the ITRC, the total number of reported breaches are up 36 percent versus 2016. Furthermore, identity theft is the number one reported issue to the FTC for the 14th year in a row. At Experian, they average 31 reported breaches per day and resolve 65 cases of identity theft each day of the year, according to Bruemmer.
Today, the Dark Web is an ecosystem on the Internet where anyone can go, but not a safe place. It is where people can market stolen credentials and other kits that are used to steal them in some way. It is illegal to purchase those, but since most sites are hosted outside of Western law enforcement jurisdictions, they are not prosecuted. The information on the Dark Web is stolen by many means included SPAM emails, phishing attacks, key logging software and malware.
“The best way to know if your information is for sale on the Dark Web is having a product like Experian's IdentityWorks which monitors for personal identity information posted there,” he advised. “It is a sure sign that your identity may be at risk if you get an alert from IdentityWorks that your information has been found on the Dark Web.”
These days, criminals selling information on the Dark Web are after profit. The profit may be used to fund other larger exploits and criminal activity, but trade on the Dark Web in stolen credentials is all about the money.
“It is amazing if you do an inventory, how much personal identity information you put in your email, social media, apps, online purchasing, banking and may other instances,” he explained. “If you don't take precautions to secure it or avoid putting online altogether, exposing it to hackers can lead to many bad outcomes.”
Why do a whopping 64 percent think it's too much of a hassle to worry about securing personal information online? Bruemmer is dumbfounded by that statistic and it means they have never had to resolve an issue of fraud or identity theft. He added, “Without a fraud resolution specialist from IdentityWorks or another identity theft protection service, the average person takes 4-6 weeks and many hours of personal time to get their identity theft corrected on average.”
So, does the risk of identity theft go away over time? According to Bruemmer, it does not. Once your information is compromised electronically, you cannot take it back like getting your SSN card back - even then, someone could have copied it.
“Your best course of action is to always have identity theft protection like Experian's IdentityWorks that provides a copy of your credit reports, monitors them 24/7, $1M of identity theft protection insurance, Dark Web monitoring and provides a dedicated identity theft restoration specialist,” he said.
Additionally, all the major banks and credit card companies offer free transaction monitoring in their apps or website by just setting up an account. Bruemmer recommends this as a way to monitor for suspicious transactions and every consumer should be taking advantage of this as a preventative measure.