Preparation and Planning Are Essential to Personal Cybersecurity

September is National Preparedness Month, and this observance provides an excellent opportunity to check in with your personal and community readiness for any possible risk, emergency, or disaster. Planning and preparation are critical factors for everyone to keep in mind as we navigate daily life and uncertain times alike. Adversity and hardship often appear without warning, and a bit of groundwork in anticipation for these sometimes-inevitable life circumstances can reduce the severity of the effects that you and your family experience when trouble strikes in any form.

While preparedness stretches to many different areas in life, LibertyID would like to let this post serve as a reminder for our friends, family, community, and readers that planning is also essential to limit the growing risk of personal cybersecurity threats. We want to provide a brief reminder of these threats to help you to identify and avoid them as best as possible.

Most Common Forms of Identity Theft

Identity theft can appear in multiple ways. Threat actors have developed a growing list of tactics to trick and deceive victims into divulging personal information that can be used to commit fraud. Recognizing the most common forms of identity theft can help limit risk and keep you better prepared if you do fall victim.

  • Email Scams – These scams, also known as phishing, are the most common way cybercriminals attempt to steal your personal information. These emails schemes can appear in many forms and often try to trick a victim into providing information through emotional ploys or pretending to be a friend, relative, or authority figure.

Who this affects: Everyone. Email scams are extremely widespread, and if you use email, you have undoubtedly experienced a phishing attempt to some degree.

How to limit risks: Never click on a link or attachment found in a suspect email. Never give out personal information to untrusted sources. If an email seems even slightly fraudulent, it is most likely a scam.

  • Credit Card Fraud – Credit card fraud is a form of identity theft that occurs through unauthorized use of credit card information to make purchases or steal funds associated with the account.

Who this affects: Anyone with a credit card or debit card. Online shopping can increase the risk, but credit card information can be stolen in many ways.

How to limit risks: Regularly check your financial accounts to spot any unauthorized activity associated with credit card accounts. Never give out your credit card information to an untrusted or unsolicited source. Don’t save credit card information in online accounts via autofill features.

  • Account Password/Online Accounts – Compromised passwords are an everyday occurrence in the modern cybersecurity landscape. Data breaches involving major organizations often expose user information, including passwords. Once stolen, this information can be used to create fake identities, access other accounts, and commit fraud.

Who this affects: Anyone with an online account. Whether for finance, utilities, shopping, streaming services, or any other account, if you have ever created a username and password, there is a constant risk of that profile being compromised.

How to limit risks: Never use the same password for different accounts. Set up two-factor authentication for all accounts. Use unique and complex passwords and change them regularly.

  • Hacked Computer – Our computers hold a treasure trove of personal information, making them a valuable target for hackers and thieves. A hacked or compromised computer occurs anytime a cybercriminal gains access to your device, whether virtually or physically.

Who this affects: Anyone with a computer. Laptops are more prone to physical theft/compromise, but a hack can occur to any device connected to the internet.

How to limit risks: Never leave your computer unattended in public. Avoid public Wi-Fi because hackers can lurk on the same network. Use a VPN to hide your IP address. Install anti-virus software with a firewall. Change access passwords often.

  • Phone Scams – These are any attempt to trick you into divulging personal information over the phone. Phone scams are a tried-and-true criminal tactic that has evolved with the times. Robocalls, phony IRS calls, and other fake and fraudulent attempts to deceive you over a phone call fall into this category.

Who this affects: Anyone with a phone. It can affect those with cell phones or landlines in every age group.

How to limit risks: Never give personal information to an untrusted source over the phone. Always be skeptical of random or unsolicited callers saying you’ve won a prize, owe money you were unaware of, or demanding personal information using emotional ploys.

Lesser-Known Threats

The scams mentioned above touch on some of the most used tactics to steal your identity and commit fraud, but they are not the only methods cybercriminals employ. The list of threats is constantly evolving and include some lesser-known forms of fraud such as:

  • Social Media Fraud – Scams abound over many social media platforms that attempt to steal your personal information or outright impersonate you.
  • Synthetic Identity Theft – When a criminal creates a new identity with your personal information altogether. Rather than simply stealing and using your real information, synthetic fraud compiles bits and pieces to create false identities to commit further fraud.
  • Unemployment Fraud – This increased heavily during the COVID-19 pandemic but has existed for years. Criminals use stolen personal information to access undue unemployment funds.
  • Debt Parking – A scam that places fake debts onto your consumer credit report. Criminals attempt to coerce you into paying bogus debts that are revealed when trying to secure a loan or repair good credit standing.

Look into even more forms of identity theft here.

The Importance of Planning to Stay Prepared

The risk of identity theft has never been greater. Our digitally connected modern lives have enabled cybercriminals to extend their reach while constantly seeking new ways to commit fraud. Nearly everyone will experience identity theft to some degree and proper planning is necessary to stay prepared for this unfortunate inevitability. Foresight and knowledge are excellent tools to have in your preparedness wheelhouse, but an action plan in place ahead of time is paramount to your being able to deal with an instance of identity fraud before it happens. As always, preparation is a critical aspect of an adequate defense.

LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.

*LibertyID defines an extended family as: you, your spouse/partner, your parents and parents-in-law, and your children under the age of 25.