With the holiday season approaching, many are starting to prepare for holiday gifts and travels. In the cyber world of today, this translates into vigorous online activity as people make hassle free purchases and confirm their vacation reservations. Although online planning helps trickle in the holiday excitement early, it also creates ample opportunity for cyber thieves.
Unfortunately, the popularity and ease of our electronic environment means identity theft is on the rise. In addition, affluent people are more likely than others to be identity-theft victims.1 This holiday season, it is important to remember to take the necessary measures in order to protect yourself against a cyber-attack.
Identity theft happens when your name, date of birth, Social Security number or other identifying information is taken without your authorization and with the intent to commit fraud. According to the Federal Trade Commission, 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year.2 By stealing your identity, thieves can take out loans, open credit cards, access your bank accounts and destroy your credit. The top tenth percentile of wealthy Americans has an additional 22 percent chance of being targeted by identity thieves.1 By filling the web with account numbers and personal information, people put forth the data criminals hope to obtain in order to steal their assets.
Contrary to popular belief, hackers are not simply people hiding away in a house basement. Many operate as well-run businesses; almost identical to their authentic counterparts.3
This makes it difficult for people to discern what’s actually trustworthy. In order to secure yourself online, you should educate yourself on the various forms of identity theft so you know what to be on the lookout for.
To arm yourself against identity theft,
- Do not click on any suspicious advertisements or links and be sure to update your antivirus software frequently.
- Do your best to remove most online personal information, as well as limiting the personal content on social media sites.
- Change your passwords often and shred or file all personal documents.
- Particularly, always be aware of your surroundings.
Fortunately, most banks have procedures in place to help you against identity theft. U.S. Trust, for example, allocates significant time and money each year solely for safeguarding client information. The U.S. Trust team monitors and flags any suspicious activity, offers free fraud-protection downloads and works with law enforcement globally to catch fraud rings. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to censor your online activity.
As you’re exploring the Internet for treats this holiday season, be aware that identity theft could happen. Providing the right information to the wrong person can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to resolve. Making cyber security a priority this year can be the best means to holiday cheer.
1. Asher Kade, Stolen ID: 8 Types of Victims Thieves Target, 2010
2. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft, 2013
3. US Trust Capital Acumen, Summer 2011, Features Section: Stop (Cyber) Thief!
This article is designed to provide general information about ideas and strategies. It is for discussion purposes only since the availability and effectiveness of any strategy is dependent upon your individual facts and circumstances. Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager, and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax, or estate planning strategy. This content represents thoughts of the author and does not necessarily represent the position of Bank of America or U.S. Trust. U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management operates through Bank of America, N.A. and other subsidiaries of Bank of America Corporation. Bank of America, N.A., Member FDIC.