Most people are aware of identity theft, and the havoc it can wreak on their lives. After all, identity theft is currently the leading form of fraud in the U.S -- though Kentucky ranks relatively low in “Victims Per 100,000 Population.” You probably already know that you should not just hand out your sensitive information to anyone who asks for it. But as the average American gets wise about information security, so do thieves. They are learning every single day what your weaknesses are, and new methods they can use to get money out of you before you realize you have been fooled. Beware your smartphone, your social media accounts and your automatic transfers of money. When you know the latest tricks in identity theft, you can better protect yourself.

Smartphones

Millions of people own smartphones. These devices are convenient because they are small, easy to operate, and can streamline hundreds of functions in one machine. But they are also ripe for thieves. Watch out for “shoulder surfing,” where someone positions themselves within view or earshot of your mobile activities. They can record the information you provide and use it later to your detriment. Remember that your phone may also be stolen. It may seem convenient to have your email and bank accounts easy to open without a password. But if you ever lose your phone that convenience makes it extremely easy for criminals to access the valuable data contained on your phone.

Social Media

You may have seen this before. On Facebook, you receive a friend request from someone you are sure is on your friends list already. You double-check and yes, they are still there. So who is this person who has the same name and often the same picture? It’s a hacker who is trying to steal that person’s identity. It is surprising how easy it is to convince friends and family that the fake profile is the real person. And once the scammer has collected a number of people as their friends, they may be able to access more and more of the information on your profile. This data can be used to hack into other accounts of yours, such as email, to gain additional information to steal your identity. If they create a fake account to mimic yours, they may even be able to delete your profile. If you find your profile or the profile of one of your friends has been duplicated, alert website administrators immediately.

Direct Deposit

For the most part, using direct deposit for your income instead of a paper check is a very safe way to receive money. However, criminals will do whatever they can to get access to that money. Cons will:

Create false corporations and advertise jobs for hire. They offer you a position and then ask for your bank account number and other sensitive information for direct deposit. To prevent this, refuse to give any sensitive data until you have verified that the company exists, and you have an official position. Hack into the servers of large corporations and send mass emails to employees. If you receive an email ostensibly from your employer, asking you to go to a special link to provide your log-in and password to the company database, or asking you to send your bank information to a particular address, do not follow these directions. Go directly to your supervising manager, or to the payroll department for clarification.

Remember that no one is safe from attack, even your CEO. If you suspect something, mention it.

As always, the old advice makes sense. Be very careful to whom you give information such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, passport information, bank account data and log-in or password information for your various accounts. Legitimate businesses will never ask you to provide these details by email or phone. Instead, contact the organization directly through other means. The more suspicious you are, the safer you will be.

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