National nonprofit American Consumer Credit Counseling provides consumers tips on how to secure their online identities and guard against identity theft.
Boston, MA – July 13, 2016
Each year, millions of Americans fall victim to identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone steals a consumer’s personal information and uses it without their permission, usually for financial gain. Identity theft can negatively affect credit and finances, and more often than not, consumers don’t know they are at risk and are unsure of ways to prevent it.
“As the use of social media continues to increase it has provided more opportunities for identity theft and fraud,” said Steve Trumble, President, and CEO of American Consumer Credit Counseling, which is based in Newton, MA. “The best advice for any consumer to ensure that they do not fall victim to identity theft is to check your privacy settings, use unique passwords – changing them frequently – and avoid posting personal information to online social media sites.”
According to Javelin Strategy’s 2016 Identity Fraud Study, the number of identity theft victims in the U.S. increased three percent from 2014 to 13.1 million consumers. Although there was an increase in number of victims, the amount stolen decreased by six percent to $15 billion in 2015. The FBI says that “humans are a weak link in cyber security” when it comes to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Often, the biggest challenge is that consumers do not know how to adequately protect themselves against scammers, particularly those scouring social media for private information. American Consumer Credit Counseling has released several tips to help consumers minimize the threat.
- Secure devices – Never leave your mobile device or laptop by a window, visible in a car or sitting in a gym locker. If you have to leave your laptop, smart phone or tablet, make sure it is locked away where no one can see it. When in public, make a habit of using a cable lock to secure your laptop to a strong, unbreakable object that won’t move. For cell phones and tablets, use passwords to prevent unauthorized access to your data.
- Register devices with manufacturers – Registering your digital device will “flag” a product and a manufacturer will have record of it if it is ever sent in for service.
- Password protection – Create unique passwords and usernames on all social media platforms. Consider changing these passwords frequently to increase protection.
- Personal information – Avoid posting personal information, such as your hometown, address, date of birth and email address, as this information could be used for password verification or phishing.
- Networking – Try to ‘connect’, ‘follow’ or ‘friend’ with people you know or have met in the past.
- Privacy settings – Be sure to use the highest privacy setting that is available on each social media platform. This will ensure that strangers have fewer opportunities to access your personal information.
- See how safe a site is before you click – The best way to avoid scams and sketchy sites online is to never visit them. Be wary of sites making offers that seem too good to be true, or ask you for sensitive, personal information like banking and credit card account numbers. Unsafe sites may also feature intrusive ads and pop-up windows.
- Avoid phishing – Phishing is when you receive an email or a pop-up ad claiming to represent a financial institution or company, asking you to verify personally identifying information. Do not respond to such emails, or click any links. If you wish to do any business online, visit the correct website by typing in the official URL yourself; otherwise, call the institution directly. Report phishing emails to the FTC by forwarding to firstname.lastname@example.org
ACCC is a 501(c)3 organization that provides free credit counseling, bankruptcy counseling, and housing counseling to consumers nationwide in need of financial literacy education and money management. For more information, contact ACCC:
- For credit counseling, call 800-769-3571
- For bankruptcy counseling, call 866-826-6924
- For housing counseling, call 866-826-7180
- Or visit us online at http://www.ConsumerCredit.com
About American Consumer Credit Counseling
American Consumer Credit Counseling (ACCC) is a nonprofit credit counseling 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to empowering consumers to achieve financial management through credit counseling, debt management, bankruptcy counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling and financial education. In order to help consumers reach their goal of debt relief, ACCC provides a range of free consumer personal finance resources (https://www.consumercredit.com/debt-resources-tools/) on a variety of topics including budgeting, credit and debt management, student loans, youth and money, homeownership, identity theft, senior living and retirement. Consumers can use ACCC’s worksheets, videos, calculators, and blog articles to make the best possible decisions regarding their financial future. ACCC holds an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®). For more information or to access free financial education resources, log on to ConsumerCredit.com or visit TalkingCentsBlog.com.