Identity Protection: The Benefits of a Long-Term Mindset

Breached Personal Information: The Shared Responsibility Between Consumers & Organizations

Our connected world has made us all more vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. With major security incidents from Equifax and Facebook compromising millions of consumers’ personally identifiable information (PII) – and now most recently Google+ – limited identity protection services for breach victims are staple items in organizations, big and small.

While reactive measures can help address and resolve identity crime after it occurs, the best way to address fraud and identity theft is by taking a proactive approach. It’s really a two-fold awareness strategy relying on both technology and human vigilance.  


What is “Light” Identity Protection?

Businesses experienced a significant spike in data breaches between 2016 and 2017 – nearly 44 percent. In response, organizations began offering free or scaled-down versions of identity protection for their consumers and clients post-breach.

However, these temporary services are typically one- or two-year terms. And depending on the plan selected, they may not address the various identity crime risks that could result because personal information was exposed due to a breach event.

For example, comprehensive identity theft alerts are often excluded from basic breach plans. Services that alert you of personal data found on the Dark Web, when your social media profiles have been compromised, as well as fraud on your credit files may not be part of basic breach plans that organizations offer to breach victims.

Credit Monitoring ≠ Full ID Protection

Post-breach services usually include a combination of identity restoration, sometimes paired with a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring works by finding discrepancies in your credit files once fraud has occurred.
However, credit monitoring alone does not address other types of identity crime such as synthetic identity theft, or a fabricated identity that can be much more difficult to detect. In fact, fraudsters can create synthetic identities from just two of your personal data points.
Read more about the risks of synthetic identity theft here.


Unknowingly Putting PII in the Identity Crime Crossfire  

It’s important to realize that a data breach is not the only event that can trigger the exposure of personal and financial data.

For example, 54 percent of consumers in 2017 said that they used unsecured Wi-Fi networks, with 1 in 5 of them using those networks for eCommerce or online banking purposes. Using public Wi-Fi networks and charging stations can leave your devices vulnerable to hackers using your Wi-Fi connection to steal data from your device. Even airports can pose additional Wi-Fi vulnerabilities, too

Additionally, 81 percent of the U.S. population actively provides personal and private data on platforms designed for sharing. The data that we put on our social media accounts can be repurposed in social engineering scams, account takeover and even identity theft. Here are some additional tips on how to better protect your personal information.

Properly addressing identity crime involves a proactive, integrated approach that’s focused on continuous education and vigilance – with or without a breach.


Identity Crime Prevention For The Long-Term

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received around 280,000 complaints a year between 2000 and 2016 – meaning that data breaches are not the only risk to your identity. While free identity protection works, it’s important to understand its limitations.

Overall, education and prevention are your best defense against identity crime, even if you’ve never been a victim of a breach event.

Here’s a checklist that offers fast and simple preventative measures you can do in five minutes or less. Review the full list by visiting 12 Quick Ways to Secure Your Personal Data.


Protect PII Online:

  • Create strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts.
  • Change any password that has already been reused for another account.
  • Turn on the two- or multi-factor authentication (MFA) setting for your accounts.
  • Get a password manager tool (EZShield customers, you already have one!)


Address Risks to PII Offline:

  • Invest in a safe or locked cabinet to store highly sensitive documents and files.
  • Shred documents that contain PII or financial information before disposing them.
  • Report mail fraud or mail scams to your local post office.


Secure Personal Devices:

  • Add a passcode to your device.
  • Update software regularly when you receive prompts to do so.
  • Never connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks.


Regain Control of Your Identity & Financial Information:

  • Take your Social Security card out of your wallet.
  • Review your financial statements to look for any suspicious activity.
  • Request a free copy of your credit report and review the header, trades and inquiries sections.

Continue following Fighting Identity Crimes to get the latest breach and scam updates, ID protection news & tips from our industry experts!

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.

Steve Turner, Information Security Expert
Steve, former Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Sontiq, the parent company of the EZShield and IdentityForce brands, has...
Read more about Steve Turner.

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