If you use the internet, you absolutely need internet protection. Not only to protect your computer but yours and your family’s personal information. Any device that connects to the internet, needs protection. There are numerous ways your devices can become infected with viruses such as Malware, Spyware, and Botnets. However, there are numerous ways in which you can protect yourself, as well as your family
What is Malware?
Malware is short for Malicious Software. Malware tricks your device into downloading software without you knowing it. Once installed, the Malware can wreak havoc on yours and your family’s lives. Malware comes in many forms, such as Adware, Botnets, Spyware, and Viruses.
Spyware is used to track your movements online. Tracking users online has become mainstream by major online companies. The problem is when spyware is used for malicious purposes. In which case, it is typically hidden from the user and can be difficult to detect. Spyware such as key loggers can record keystrokes by a user. Thus, allowing identity thieves to get your username and password when you log on to your bank account for example.
What are Botnets?
The Botnet is an example of good technology being used for bad intentions. A Botnet is simply connected computers coordinated together to perform a task. For example, maintaining a chat room. The problem is the illegal Botnet that allows the Botnet owner to control your devices without your permission.
The illegal Botnet gains access to you devices through malicious coding. This can happen by directly hacking your device. Once the Botnet’s owner is in control of device, they can send Email Spam to millions of internet users. They can also generate fake internet traffic on a third party website for financial gain.
There are different types of identity theft. A common form of identity theft is Tax ID theft where someone steals your social security number to file a false tax return to get a tax refund or a job. The other common identity theft is Medical ID Theft, which is when someone steals your personal identification number and can then submit false claims to your insurer or medicare in your name.
The Consumer Sentinel Network, maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), tracks consumer fraud and identity theft complaints that have been filed with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and private organizations. Of the 2.7 million identity theft and fraud reports received in 2017, 1.1 million were fraud-related, costing consumers almost $905 million. Within the fraud category, impostor scams were the most reported and ranked first among the top 10 fraud categories identified by the FTC. They accounted for $328 million in losses. In 2017, 14 percent of all complaints were related to identity theft. Identity theft complaints were the third most reported to the FTC and had increased almost 70 percent from 2013 to 2015 but fell about 24 percent from 2015 to 2017 Source: (Insurance Information Institute).
Credit card fraud was the most reported incident to the Consumer Sentinel Network, with 133,000 reports. The most common identity theft is credit card fraud. More than 32% of Americans complained about credit card fraud in 2016, double the rate from 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission
Child Identity Theft
Children are sometimes targeted for identity theft because children don’t have a credit history. This allows thieves to create fraudulent accounts that are sometimes not discovered for years. At which point, the victim now has to deal with unraveling years of fraud and possibly multiple identities.
There are warning signs like IRS notices addressed to your child regarding taxes owed or receiving collection calls or bills for products or services you never received.
If you suspect that your child’s identity has been stolen, you can check to see if your child has a credit report. There shouldn’t be one. If there is a report, then you will have to begin the process of repairing any damage. You may have to begin by contacting the companies where the fraud happened. Also, contacting the Credit Bureaus to have any fraudulent accounts removed. You may also want to consider a child credit freeze which would freeze the child’s account until the child is old enough to use it.
The ITRC’s (Internet Resource Center) most recent Aftermath study showed 27% of identity theft victims contacted law enforcement about the theft. Of those, 87% indicated a report was taken. However, identity theft has other consequences besides loss of data and personal information.
In addition to the emotional distress, it takes time and money to resolve. Victims’ actions following identity theft included selling possessions to pay for expenses and closing financial and online accounts. Nearly one-third of respondents had to spend time away from other life experiences, like hobbies or a vacation, and more than 25 percent had to borrow money from family or friends. Taking time off from work and spending time away from family were the second highest responses, both at 22 percent. Relocating or moving and selling possessions were both experienced by 15.3 percent of the respondent. Source: 2017 Identity Theft Aftermath Report, ITRC.
“Victims who experience identity theft early in their adult lives may find themselves unable to become independent or realize their full potential. Delayed educational opportunities were reported by 12.7 percent of respondents, creating a negative ripple effect that can potentially affect all areas of their lives. Without the ability to realize their educational goals, victims may miss job opportunities that would set them up for financial stability or further success, which can impact housing and quality of life.” Eva Velasquez, ITRC CEO and President
It can sometimes take years to clear up any problems brought on by identity theft. Always having to worry about and deal with problems connected to the identity theft when applying for future home, school or auto loans.
You can take steps to protect yours or your families personal information from misuse.
Find a safe place for all documents or electronics with personally identifying information. Shred any documents with personal information before throwing them away.
Never share social security numbers unless you know and trust the party. Ask if you can use a different identifier or ask to just use the last 4 digits of the social security number.
What Can You Do if You’re an Identity Theft Victim?
- Submit a report about the theft to the Federal Trade Commission’s website or call the FTC’s toll-free hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (438-4338).
- Consider placing a freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports.
- If you are the victim of medical ID theft, notify your insurer and medical providers, get copies of your medical files and ask to have them corrected. You can also consider filing a health-privacy complaint with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services online or call 1-800-368-1019. If you are the victim of Tax ID theft, you can contact the IRS.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, is accurate as of the date of publication.