Identity Theft Today – A Constantly Changing Landscape

by Marianne Cederlind 
Executive Vice President & Chief Business Banking Officer
Mission Valley Bank

As cyber criminals get craftier, individuals need to arm themselves with facts on identity theft and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves.

Mobile phones and social media are the new frontier -- Fraudsters are expected to introduce as many as 1,000 different phone/social media scams this year, according to one expert. In fact, a social media identity may be more valuable to cyber criminals than credit cards since it offers them the opportunity to manipulate friends. Safety tip: Keep smart phone operating systems up-to-date. Use passwords to gain access to your phone and install apps that enable remote deletion of phone data if it is lost or stolen. 

Tax return fraud costing billions -- Identity thieves file fake returns using stolen social security numbers and claim refunds worth billions. These taxpayer-victims only learn of the fraud when the Internal Revenue Service rejects their own return because someone already received the money using their identity. This type of fraud has doubled in the last year – now at $24 billion – and cases can take up to a year to clear up. Safety tip: File your tax return early. Don’t answer any emails allegedly from the IRS since they will never contact you via email.

ID theft prevention -- Experts say that while financial institutions are continually improving security – through layered security, multi-factor authentication and other measures – many consumers are still not changing bad habits that leave them at extreme risk. Without personal diligence, cyber criminals will find new, innovative ways to steal consumers’ hard-earned money. Safety tip: Upgrade your electronic security, and make sure computers and phones are locked and password protected when not in use. Do not share personal information unless you know the other party, and monitor your accounts regularly.