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New IdentityTheft Scam

More than 250 Seattle area consumers are learning about data breaches today at the launch of the “Taking Charge of Your Digital Identity” campaign at South Seattle College. First in a statewide series, additional events are planned for Spokane on June 14, Vancouver on June 27, and the Tri-Cities on July 11.

Data breaches exposing consumers’ personal information to hackers and potential identity thieves are occurring more and more frequently. These breaches impact millions of individuals: Equifax – 147 million, Target – 110 million, Uber – 57 million, Home Depot – 53 million, and many others. In 2017, more than 738 data breaches occurred exposing more than 2 billion individual’s records. Few consumers have escaped these exposures.

Meanwhile, a survey from AARP shows Washington consumers are falling further behind in protecting their identities. While confusion on what steps to take are holding many back, some consumers are giving up and accepting that it’s only a matter of time before they’re a victim of identity theft.

As part of the digital identity campaign, AARP released a state report, “Up for Grabs.” The survey of Washington online users 18-plus shows that a lack of awareness and knowledge of online problems may be contributing to increased dangers for Washington consumers. Six-in-10 Washington adults failed a quiz testing their Digital Identity IQ, according to the report. For example:

  • Only one third of respondents know that a fraud alert won’t prevent their credit file from being shared with potential creditors. A fraud alert doesn’t block potential new credit but places a comment on your history so that creditors will contact you prior to opening a new account.
  • Only one-third of respondents know that a scan of the dark web won’t confirm whether your personal information has been stolen. Because of the way the dark web is structured, it’s impossible to do a complete scan of it.
  • Only about half of respondents know that purchasing ID theft monitoring services doesn’t prevent identity thieves from stealing your identity. Most ID theft monitoring services will notify individuals if someone is attempting to open new credit in their name. However, it won’t prevent it from happening.
  • Only about four in 10 know that there are millions of Social Security numbers available for sale on the internet for as low as $3 each.

 Not only is a lack of awareness placing consumers at risk, but many others admit they have given up. Six in 10 of those surveyed said that given the number of data breaches that have occurred in the past five years, they think that no matter what they do, it’s inevitable that criminals will use their stolen identity to exploit their credit at some point.

“With data breaches constantly in the news, keeping your personal information safe may seem like a difficult task,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. “There are simple steps you can take to better protect yourself from identity theft. Take advantage of the resources offered by AARP, the Attorney General’s Office, and others.”

Those attending today’s event are being urged to follow three steps to better protect themselves from identity thieves:

1. Take charge of your credit file

Getting a credit freeze is one of the three primary recommendations of security officials to help protect your identity. With a credit freeze in place, a criminal is unable to access your credit file or open new credit accounts. Fewer than one-in-six Washington adults report having ever ordered a security freeze on their credit, according to AARP’s report.

A new Washington state law, which goes into effect in June, will let consumers freeze their credit and lift the freeze at no cost, said Federal Trade Commission Regional Director Chuck Harwood. Before then, consumers pay $10 to each of three credit reporting agencies to freeze their credit files, and another $10 per bureau to thaw their files.

2. Check your online accounts

Almost all consumers have had their personal information exposed to potential identity thieves. Consumers should have online access to all of their bank accounts, credit cards, and retirement accounts and check them frequently, said AARP State Director Doug Shadel.

Only four-in-10 Washington adults have set-up online accounts for all of their bank accounts, while one in five don’t have online access to any of them. In addition, only half of Washington adults have set-up online access to all of their credit cards, while more than one-quarter haven’t set up access to any of them.

Surprisingly, nearly half of respondents who haven’t set up online access to some or any of their bank or credit card accounts say they haven’t because they’re afraid their personal information will get stolen; about four in 10 say they feel safer without an online account; and more than one third say they don’t trust the internet.

3. Strengthen your passwords and privacy settings

Nearly half of Washington adults report using the same password for more than one online account. Younger adults are more likely to do this compared to older adults. Using the same password for many accounts is risky, said Kyle Welch, BECU’s chief information security officer. If hackers are able to break one code, they can access all the other accounts.

Privacy concerns over users’ personal information on Facebook has also been in the news recently. AARP’s survey shows that among Washington Facebook users 18-plus, nearly three-quarters report having changed at least some of their privacy settings from the default settings. However, fewer adults aged 65 and older, 33 percent, have done so.

Check your settings to make sure only friends can see what you post, or at most friends of friends, said Jeff Lilleskare, Online Safety & Security Risk Management, Microsoft. Don’t post when you’re traveling. Don’t share your address, and be careful about taking pictures with sensitive information in them.

You can take AARP Digital Identity IQ Quiz online and see how you compare to the rest of the state.

The digital identity events are offered by AARP, the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission, BECU, and the Social Security Administration.

For more consumer protection tips and to sign up for fraud alerts from the AARP Fraud Watch Network, go to

For more information for boomer consumers, see my blog The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.


Source: on 2018-05-16 15:52:30

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