As Americans have increasingly turned to digital devices and online shopping as a result of the pandemic, there has been an unfortunate rise in identity theft and fraud as scammers attempt to exploit the situation. Alarmingly, 10% of U.S. adults report being a victim of identity theft since the onset of the COVID-19.1
Identity theft is a broad term for unauthorized use of your personal data, typically for financial gain. It starts when someone “steals” your name, address, social security number, checking account or credit card numbers, passwords and other personal information. While identity theft can be scary, there is some good news. You can protect yourself, in most cases, by being aware of the threat and following certain practices for safeguarding your information.
Monitor your accounts regularly. Take advantage of online access to your financial accounts and watch for fraudulent transactions. If something seems amiss, contact your bank immediately.
Keep tabs on your electronic devices. We live a lot of our lives online, and some level of risk to our data is unavoidable. But you can take steps to minimize security gaps. Start with your physical devices. Always keep the software, both applications and operating systems, on your phone, computer, smartwatch, and other devices up to date, and enable automatic updates where possible. You may also want to limit mobile-app access to vital pieces of information, such as location, contacts and photos, unless completely necessary.