Identity Theft is Big Business

May 13, 2016

Introduction

Let me get straight to the point: To the black market, you are nothing more than a “mark”—an opportunity to get rich. Criminals don’t care whether you can afford what they steal from you or if, as a result of their activities, you go bankrupt—they simply don’t care.

What your information is worth

The Washington Times reported that 17.6 million Americans had their personal information stolen in 2014 resulting in financial losses exceeding $15 billion. Households with incomes of $70,000 or more were targeted more frequently; victimization of the elderly rose to 2.6 million people.

I am amazed that many individuals feel that identity theft only happens to other people, not them. News flash: you’re not invisible. In fact, business is so good that the criminals just haven’t gotten to you yet!

Your information is worth quite a bit of money and the internet has made it incredibly easy to steal. A 2015 Bankrate article showed what your information is worth to today’s hacker:

  • Social Security Number with other ID info: $30
  • Date of birth: $11
  • Healthcare data: $20
  • Credit Card credentials: from $4 to $12
  • Bank account number plus additional ID info: up to $300

So, if a low level crook steals 100 customer records from a small business containing Social Security Numbers, he or she stands to make $3,000. Not bad for an hours’ worth of work. Now, increase the number of stolen records to 1000, 2000, 100,000, etc. Get the picture?  The economics are astounding.

Even low-level thieves can make a good living without ever working a day in their lives and statistics show that few get caught! But now days, crooks need not go it alone. Large cyber-crime syndicates have sprung up to help them launch their nefarious careers. Identity Theft is BIG BUSINESS!

The fact is that most people don’t concern themselves with online safety beyond using free anti-virus programs and many small businesses have poor or nonexistent cyber security. The internet aside, you’d be astounded at the information people carelessly discard in their garbage pails. Do you wonder why identity theft is on the rise? Here’s a hint: it’s easy, quick and it pays extremely well.

Learn to protect yourself

  1. Businesses should implement and enforce a Clean Desk Policy immediately.
  2. Paper documents should be under lock and key. All PCs should be protected with strong login credentials and lock screens when the workstation is left unattended even for a few minutes.
  3. Businesses should require all employees to save confidential documents only to designated, properly protected and restricted areas on the server. No exceptions.
  4. Only use micro cut paper shredders and shred all unneeded documents containing even the smallest amount of personal information. Don’t throw it away—shred it!
  5. Be cognizant of the information you’re surrendering on online forms. Make sure you trust the company behind the website.
  6. NEVER enter confidential information on a website whose URL doesn’t start with https. Https is a protocol for secure information over the internet. Website addresses that start with http (without the s at the end) are not secure—don’t enter confidential data on such sites.
  7. Do not send confidential information such as bank account and credit card numbers, etc. by email. Email is not a secure medium and subject to hacking.
  8. Limit the personal data you submit on social media sites. Policies change and what was considered confidential before may not be currently. Review policies often!
  9. SPAM emails containing infected links and/or attachments are a favorite way for hackers to spread information-stealing viruses and malware to your computer and business systems. Watch what you click on and use an Advanced SPAM Filter to stop malicious emails from getting to your inbox.
  10. ALWAYS keep a backup. Individuals should have a copy of their data preferably on a local drive and as well as in the cloud. Businesses should have an Image-based Hybrid-cloud Business Continuity solution featuring onsite and cloud failover capabilities.

Conclusion

It’s not hard to stay safe, but it does take effort. Education is important. There are many security blogs on the internet today that will keep you up-to-date on what is happening in cyber-security and how to keep yourself, family and businesses safe, such as our The Letter “X” Blog.

 

Joseph Imperato Jr. is a partner with XSolutions, a Managed Services Provider (MSP) specializing in Managed IT and Business Continuity solutions. Download our FREE, Excel-based Disaster Plan template to quickly and painlessly create a written disaster plan for your business. Call us at (845) 362-9675 to find out how our image-based Business Continuity solutions can help your company survive the next disaster.

 



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