How to Lose Your Identity in a Day (If You’re Not Careful)

A recent poll found 92% of American adults have taken at least one big data security risk in the past year. [1] With identity theft on the rise, why are so many adults careless when it comes to protecting their privacy and data? It’s all too easy to let your guard down and leave your personal information open to hijacking and theft.

If you unwittingly visit spoofed or form-jacked websites, throw away statements without shredding, overshare on social media, or provide answers to fraudsters over the phone, identity thieves can intercept personal information and use it to create new accounts in your name or take over existing accounts.

Common activities that can put your data at risk

When our lives move quickly, we sometimes risk data security in exchange for convenience or instant gratification. However, seemingly small decisions result in deep and lasting consequences if you lose your identity. Here are a few common scenarios that pose outsized risk to your security:

  • You receive an offer in the mail that you don’t want—so you just throw it in the trash, not realizing that there’s a lot of information about you inside.
  • You’re having fun on vacation, but remember your electric bill is due, so you log into online banking using public WiFi at the nearest coffee shop.
  • An online store requires you to set up an account and provide additional data prior to your purchase—but the website is “http”, or unsecured. When you set up the account, you used the same password you always do—Fifi12345 after your beloved dog.
  • After getting cash, you drove away and left your receipt hanging in the ATM.
  • Your friends all played a question game on Facebook, so you played too. Your answers revealed personal information that could help a hacker answer your “forgot my password” questions, such as your pet’s name, your first car, etc.

These are common mistakes people make every day. More than one in four Americans don’t shred their mail, leaving personal information intact for dumpster-diving fraudsters.[2]  A recent Experian study revealed that 70 percent of consumers globally are “willing to share more personal data” with online organizations, especially if they believe it will provide greater security or convenience.[3] Two in three adults admit to reusing passwords.[4]

Act thoughtfully to protect your children

If identity thieves obtain your child’s Social Security number, they can slowly create new accounts and rack up bills without setting off many red flags. Talk to your child about safe online behavior and protect them from online bullying. Minors who are bullied online are more than nine times more likely to be victims of fraud.[5] Experts believe this may be because they are more willing to share information online in search of acceptance.

As you think about your day-to-day habits, be ever-vigilant. Be careful about who you’re sharing personal information with and do not trade data security for time savings or extra convenience.


Blog content courtesy of CyberScout. ©2021 CyberScout, LLC

Copyright © 2021 Central Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

[1] “Poll: Americans Leave Their Personal Information Open to Thieves,” Creditcards.com, February 2019

[2] “Poll: Americans Leave Their Personal Information Open to Thieves,” Creditcards.com, February 2019

[3] 2019 Global Identity and Fraud Report, Experian

[4] “Google Survey Finds Two in Three Users Reuse Passwords,” Info Security Magazine, February 2019

[5] 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study, Javelin Strategy & Research

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