Data Privacy Day (Jan. 28) and Identity Theft Awareness Week (Feb. 1 – 5) are annual efforts aimed at eliminating fraud through marketplace safety practices. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 20% of all reports received by the agency in 2019 addressed identity theft, and data from BBB Scam Tracker shows more than $1 million were lost to identity theft in the U.S. last year, with 14% of Scam Tracker submissions coming from Texas consumers.
With the FTC and Better Business Bureau seeing an increase in reports of identity theft and financial loss, it is important for consumers to be aware of potential risks.
Scammers may attempt to reach you through email or fraudulent websites, but phone calls are the most common method used in identity theft. 70% of Texans that reported identity theft to BBB in 2020 were contacted over the phone.
Many tactics can be used to steal someone’s identity. You may encounter a phishing scam that collects your personal data, a government imposter insisting they need your Medicare number or a thief that makes purchases using your stolen financial information.
One Texas victim lost more than $16,000 to a scammer who had accessed their Social Security number. “I received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me that my benefits would be automatically deposited into my account. I did not sign up for these benefits, someone else did. At least after talking to the Social Security office payments stopped going to the scammer. But it continues to be a nightmare.”
Data privacy and fraud prevention go hand in hand. Protect your identity using these tips from your Better Business Bureau.
• Know which data is valuable. Scammers can easily steal your identity using your Social Security number or credit card information, but they can also use identifiers such as your home address, email or answers to common security questions such as your mother’s maiden name. Never share this data online, only disclose it to trusted individuals when necessary.
• Take precautions. Regularly checking your credit report and bank statements can help you recognize suspicious activity early and quickly shut down fraud. You can also take preventative measures to protect your digital data by creating strong passwords and utilizing multifactor authentication.
• Stay updated. Software updates include the latest, and most effective, security features. These features offer extra protection against scammers trying to break into your devices and any viruses they leave behind, which can put you at further risk for identity theft in the future.
ABOUT BBB®: For more than 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2019, people turned to BBB more than 183 million times for BBB Business Profiles on nearly 5.8 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The International Association of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for the local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico. BBB Serving the Heart of Texas serves 105 counties in Austin, Bryan, Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, Permian Basin, San Antonio and Waco.