Cybersecurity Awareness and the Aftermath of Identity Theft
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As experts and advocates in the cybersecurity space gear up to host National Cybersecurity Awareness Month in a few short weeks, there’s no time like the present to take a closer look at some statistics regarding identity theft. One of the most comprehensive looks at the impact that this type of crime has on its victims is the Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual Aftermath report, which follows up with victims who’ve reached out to their center for support.
The 2014 report, which compiled all of the information over the course of the 2013 calendar year, offered some key findings for the cybersecurity community:
• Age, race, location, and income level had very little to do with rates of victimization.
• Utility and cell phone accounts are highly lucrative for identity thieves.
• Criminal, Government, and Medical identity theft are on the rise.
• Most victims reported less than satisfactory experiences in working with law enforcement to clear up this crime.
• 94.2% of the victims reported that they are still highly engaged on the internet and through their mobile devices, despite having their identities stolen.
One of the more telling findings about the annual survey has been the change in behavior that many of the victims experienced. Even though almost all of the victims have said they’re still highly engaged online, approximately half of them have adopted some new habits as a result. One of the most important habits is the routine perusal of their credit reports, something that many people overlook as a preventative measure.
Other proactive behaviors can prevent issues with some of the increasingly common forms of identity theft. The survey found that the majority of Medical identity theft victims—whose identities were used to acquire medical services—only discovered their identities had been used fraudulently after they were billed for medical services. At the same time, of the 40% of victims who reported they’d suffered Government identity theft—when a thief had used their identities to apply for benefits, commit tax return fraud, or other related behaviors—the majority of victims typically find out their identities have been stolen after their legitimate documents or applications (such as a tax return) are rejected for being duplicates.
The results of this year’s Aftermath Survey will be released on October 15th as part of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It is the ITRC’s hope that the findings will encourage the public to take steps to protect their data and monitor their identities before a thief has a chance to use them, we can reduce the number of victims and minimize the damage. Next month, when NCSAM is in full swing, be sure to follow up on the educational and informative content that can help stop identity theft and turn these proactive behaviors into good habits.