Frozen Pii talks with the ITRC in the newest Fraudian Slip podcast about credit freezes, one of the most important tools in fighting identity crimes 

  • In 2002 California passed the first state law requiring the three credit bureaus to allow people to freeze their credit so no one else could access it. There used to be fees to freeze and thaw your credit. However, it is now free for everyone.  
  • Despite it being free, more than two-thirds of Americans do not take advantage of one of the most powerful weapons to fight identity crimes. Why? Also, why should you freeze your credit? 
  • The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) sat down with Frozen Pii to discuss new ITRC data on credit freezes, the importance of freezing your credit, how it protects you and why people don’t freeze their credit. 
  • You can learn more about credit freezes and other topics discussed in this podcast, as well as how to protect yourself from identity crimes, by visiting the ITRC’s website www.idtheftcenter.org.  
  • If you think you are the victim of an identity crime, you can call the ITRC (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website to speak with an expert advisor. You can freeze your credit by visiting www.frozenpii.org.  

Below is a transcript of our podcast with special guest Tom O’Malley, former federal prosecutor and Founder of Frozen Pii 

Welcome to The Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud that impact people and businesses. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, SoundCloud, Audible, Amazon or Podsite now.  

Why should you freeze your credit? This month, September, we look at one of the most powerful weapons we have in the fight against identity crimes (one of the most under-utilized tools in our arsenal) and why it’s so important. We are talking about credit freezes.  

In 2002 California passed the first state law requiring the three primary credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to allow consumers to “freeze” access to their credit reports so no one could open a new account without the person’s knowledge or permission. Eventually, all state’s adopted credit freeze laws.  

In the beginning, there were fees attached to freezing, thawing and re-freezing your credit, which took several days. In fact, 20 percent of Americans spent an estimated $1.4 billion on credit freezes in 2018 before Congress stepped in to require the credit bureaus to make freezing and thawing your credit free of charge.   

Today, what once took days now takes minutes, and no fees are involved. Yet, more than two-thirds of Americans do not take advantage of this tool to keep their credit and identity information safe and secure, according to new ITRC research. Why? Also, why should you freeze your credit? 

Helping us explore the conundrum of credit freezes is the ITRC’s CEO Eva Velasquez and Tom O’Malley, a former federal prosecutor who has taken his experience as a victim of identity theft and turned it into Frozen Pii, a service devoted to making it easy to protect yourself with a credit freeze.  

We talked with Tom O’Malley about the following: 

  • His personal story of identity theft and his idea for Frozen Pii. 
  • How credit freezes protect consumers and why people don’t freeze their credit. 
  • Why should you freeze your credit? 
  • New ITRC data about credit freezes. 
  • The ITRC’s partnership with Frozen Pii, beginning in October. 

We talked with Eva Velasquez about the following: 

  • The history of credit freezes and consumer attitudes. 
  • Why should you freeze your credit? 
  • New ITRC data about credit freezes. 
  • The ITRC’s partnership with Frozen Pii, beginning in October. 

You can learn more about how to protect your personal privacy, as well as get help if you have been the victim of an identity crime by visiting the ITRC’s website www.idtheftcenter.org. While you are there, sign up for our emails that alert you to the latest scams, monthly data breach updates and tips to protect your identity. You can freeze your credit by visiting www.frozenpii.org. Beginning in late October, you will be able to access Frozen Pii directly through the ITRC website.  

Be sure and join us next week for our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast and next month for another episode of The Fraudian Slip

Right now is a very difficult time for a lot of individuals as concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be at the top of people’s minds. In addition to the inconvenience of social distancing and isolation and the very real fears for personal health and safety, many people are also facing the stress of reduced hours at work, being furloughed or losing their jobs due to quarantine and business closures.

There is another equally upsetting issue at hand: unemployment benefits identity theft. A record-setting 57+ million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment due to COVID-19 between March and September of 2020.

Unemployment benefits identity theft has hit states hard all over the country

While the California Employment Development Department (EDD) reports that employers added 114,400 nonfarm payroll jobs in July 2021, the unemployment rate for the state remains at 7.6 percent. In September 2020, the California EDD put out an alert asking California residents to keep an eye out for fraudulent activity in regards to unemployment benefits in the state.

According to the Los Angeles Times, as of January 26, 2021, California officials say unemployment fraud has totals of more than $11 billion. California has paid out $114 billion in unemployment benefits since March 2020, and the state EDD has processed 19 million claims.

Some residents of West Virginia are receiving unemployment benefit cards they never requested.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment says the state has seen nearly 10,000 fake claims. The identity thieves are believed to be just as busy with the filing, too. Many victims have contacted the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) over complaints of unemployment benefits identity theft.

Unemployment benefits identity theft is nothing new

Unemployment benefits identity theft is nothing new. In fact, it is one of many types of government identity theft that can occur when a scammer uses stolen personally identifiable information to apply for benefits through the government. However, with so many consumers filing at the same time, an unfortunate number of people have already reported that a scammer beat them to it. Their claims have been rejected for being duplicate applications while someone else is now set up to receive their benefits.

Like many forms of identity theft, unemployment benefits identity theft is one that victims may not discover until the damage is done. If a claim is turned down for unemployment benefits due to a duplicate application, it is important for people to contact the unemployment agency immediately; the ITRC is another resource to guide victims in this challenge (888.400.5530). In the meantime, there are other ways consumers should take action if their claims are rejected:

Place a freeze on your credit report if it’s feasible

Victims might need to open a new line of credit while they are out of work, but that shouldn’t stop them from placing a freeze. Thawing a credit freeze is extremely simple and quick. This can help block an identity thief who may have their personally identifiable information (since they applied for unemployment benefits in their name) from using it for other purposes.

Monitor accounts carefully

Once again, if a thief has enough information to apply for benefits, they could have access to other information or accounts. Consumers should keep a careful watch on all of their accounts, including their credit reports, and change any online passwords.

Be aware that applying for unemployment is only one step

An identity thief may also fraudulently apply for nutrition assistance, WIC, medical coverage or other benefits. If there are any issues involving those services and someone’s identity, people should contact those agencies immediately.

It is a stressful time for many, and scammers are looking to add to it in many different ways, including unemployment benefits identity theft. It’s also exceptionally difficult given the volume of calls and reduction in services from organizations that a victim needs to contact.

However, the ITRC is here for anyone who falls victim to government identity theft. Victims can also live-chat with an expert advisor or download the ID Theft Help App that will allow them to track their steps in a case log, and get on-the-go assistance.

The post was originally published on 4/10/2020 and was updated on 9/15/2021

When a disaster strikes, there’s often a heart-tugging sadness that comes from the powerless feeling to do something useful. As distanced bystanders, we’re left reeling from the news footage of the horrific events, both human-made and natural. Often, we think to ourselves, “If only there were something I could do to help.” Unfortunately, identity criminals use it as an opportunity to prey on people while they are vulnerable and commit disaster relief scams.

Technology has empowered us to support people in their time of need. Charitable giving websites, crowdfunding campaigns, and even the ability to text a donation for a specific cause and then pay it on the following month’s bill have enabled us to lend a hand when needed.

Disasters Strike Everywhere

In the instance of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, nearly three million people were killed, injured or left homeless. Relief efforts were mobilized within mere minutes. The Red Cross immediately set up a text-to-donate option, and more than $43 million came in via text.

Flooding in Louisiana in 2016 left tens of thousands of people to take up residence in emergency shelters due to severe flooding. Sixty people died, and more than 40,000 people lost their homes. Many were rescued by boat with nothing more than their clothes, and citizens outside the flooded area were ready to respond in a big way. Celebrities also vowed to help in fundraising efforts.

In 2021 Haiti was hit with another earthquake, this one a 7.2 magnitude earthquake. Over 2,000 people died, and nearly 53,000 houses were destroyed. Volunteers and others at the Haitian-American Community Coalition of SW Florida in Fort Myers shipped hundreds of pounds of food, medical supplies and other items for victims.

Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana, leaving many people stranded and over one million people without power. U.S. Coast Guard members and National Guard units from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas conducted search-and-rescue operations. The Red Cross also set up different ways for people to donate to those in need.

Scammers Take Advantage of the Vulnerable

Sadly, the same technology that lets kind-hearted people participate in helping out has also made it possible for scammers to commit disaster relief scams and bill innocent, well-intentioned people out of their money. They can also steal your personally identifiable information (PII), something that’s far more valuable than a donation of a few dollars.

In 2016, Louisiana authorities warned the public to watch disaster relief scams that crop up online. Only a matter of hours after the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, scammers were already soliciting donations for relief efforts, but pocketing the money. It’s the same with nearly every high-profile incident that affects large numbers of victims. Scammers take advantage of people when they are most vulnerable and commit disaster relief scams.

How to Avoid Disaster Relief Scams

  • Only work with trusted sources and legitimate agencies. Many times, people will hit the streets claiming to be with an agency offering help. However, they take off with your PII or money.
  • Only use trusted and known charities to donate. If you do not recognize the name of a charity soliciting funds, or if it’s a name that’s too “sudden” to be believed, be cautious. Trustworthy charities will have long-standing reputations of meeting the government’s guidelines for a charitable organization. Other new sites should be treated as suspect and possible disaster relief scams.
  • Verify all phone numbers for charities. If you need to contact a charity by phone, check the charity’s official website to see if the number you have is legitimate. If you’re using text-to-donate, check with the charity to ensure the number is legitimate before donating.
  • Verify the information in social media posts. Double-check any solicitation for charitable donations before you donate. Crowdfunding websites may host individual requests for help. However, they are not always vetted by the site or other sources.
  • Ignore suspicious emails and messages. If you receive a suspicious email or message requesting donations or other assistance, ignore it because it is probably a disaster relief scam. Do not click on any links or open any attachments. Scammers regularly use email and messaging platforms for phishing attacks and to spread malware.
  • Report any fraud. To report suspected fraud or disaster relief scams, call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Disaster Fraud Hotline toll-free at 866.720.5721. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about phone scams or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about fraud.

Contact the ITRC

If you believe you were the victim of any disaster relief scams, or want to learn more, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC). You can speak with an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat on the company website www.idtheftcenter.org.

The post was originally published on 8/16/2016 and was recently updated on 8/31/2021.  

SentiLink talks with the ITRC in the newest Fraudian Slip podcast about the unprecedented levels of identity fraud as people have applied for government benefits during COVID-19 

  • For the first time since the reports of unemployment identity fraud began to spike in March 2020, the number of cases has steadily declined. So have the number of fraudulent stimulus cases linked to identity fraud. 
  • However, June was the month the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) saw 2021’s unemployment identity fraud numbers surpass all of 2020.  
  • The ITRC sat down with supporter SentiLink, a company that helps businesses reduce identity-related fraud, to discuss COVID-19 fraud, what we learned, emerging threats and much more. Listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip
  • You can learn more about unemployment identity fraud and other topics discussed in the podcast, and how to protect yourself from identity crimes by visiting the ITRC’s website
  • If you think you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised, you can call us, chat live online, send an email or leave a voicemail for an expert advisor to get advice on how to respond. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.   

Welcome to The Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud that impact people and businesses. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, SoundCloud, or Podsite now.

This month, July, we will look deeper into an issue that has dominated news headlines – unemployment identity fraud – and frustrated hundreds of thousands of identity crime victims. We are talking about the unprecedented levels of identity fraud that we have seen during the pandemic as people applied for various government benefits – ranging from unemployment benefits to small business loans.  

Let’s start with some good news. For the first time since reports of unemployment identity fraud emerged in early 2020, the number of fraud cases began a steady decline in May. The number of fraudulent stimulus cases linked to identity fraud and small business administration loans also drops a little each month. Ironically, June was the month when the number of unemployment identity fraud cases reported to the ITRC in 2021 surpassed all of 2020. 

The ITRC has talked a lot on earlier episodes of this podcast about how the unemployment identity fraud occurred and the impact on people denied benefits as a result. However, we have not focused much on what we have learned about what happened after the money was stolen. Where did it go? What other actions can we take now to prevent more fraud in the future based on what we have learned? 

Helping us explore the murky world of identity fraud is Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the ITRC, and Naftali Harris, Co-Founder and CEO of SentiLink, a company that helps businesses reduce identity-related fraud.   

We talked with Naftali Harris about the following: 

  • What SentiLink does. 
  • What happened to the money lost, and what we have learned from the pandemic fraud. 
  • Friction in transactions – positive and negative.  
  • Any potential emerging threats. 

We talked with Eva Velasquez about the following: 

  • The impacts of identity fraud and the denial of benefits. 
  • Friction in transactions – positive and negative. 
  • What consumers can do to prevent/mitigate identity fraud now. 

You can learn more about unemployment identity fraud as well as get help if you have been the victim of an identity crime by visiting the ITRC’s website at www.idtheftcenter.org. While you are there, sign up for our emails that alert you to the latest scamsmonthly data breach updatesand tips to protect your identity.  

Be sure and join us next week for our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast and next month for another episode of The Fraudian Slip.  

ITRC thanks SentiLink for supporting our podcast.

  • If you have a Venmo account, you may have been asked recently to re-verify your identity on Venmo. The payment app asks  users to do so as part of compliance with government regulations. Anyone who does not take part in the identity verification process will not be able to store money on the app. Instead, money will have to go to and from a bank account or credit card.
  • While there is always a risk in providing sensitive information to a company, identity verification is necessary to reduce the number of identity crimes. Venmo also made changes to its privacy settings. Users can now select a “public,” “friends” or “private” setting for their friends list. They can also opt-out of being seen on the friends lists of other Venmo users.
  • To learn more, or if you believe you were the victim of a payment app identity crime, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Have you recently received a message asking you to verify your identity on Venmo? Has the payment app asked you to verify information like your Social Security number (SSN), address and other personal information? If so, it’s not a scam. Venmo is in the middle of making some changes, including updating its privacy settings and doing identity verification with all of its users. The payment app is reaching out to users asking them to re-verify their identity as required by government regulations.

What the Changes Mean

If you are asked to verify your identity on Venmo, you have to do it, or else you will not be able to store money on the app. You can still use it, but money would have to go to and from a bank account or credit card, according to Venmo’s rules. While some are skeptical about the messages they are receiving, and about providing their personal information, the goal of identity verification is to avoid phishing attacks and other scams.

Venmo is also now giving people an option to select a “public,” “private” or “friends” setting for their friends list and to opt-out of being seen on the friends lists of other Venmo users.

The Rise in Cash App Scams

Cash app scams have seen a rise since COVID-19. Over the last year and a half, scammers have been out in full force targeting cash app users on social media, via email and through texts in hopes to steal user’s money and identities. Asking you and others to verify your identity on Venmo and offering more privacy settings could slow down the pace of cash app scams by limiting the use of fraudulent accounts, especially when more people are using payment apps.

Why You Should Verify Your Identity on Venmo

If a company stores sensitive information, the user is always at risk if the company is ever breached. However, as Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) president and CEO Eva Velasquez told Slate Magazine in a recent interview, identity authentication and verification is still a really important step that has to be taken to stem  identity crimes. It is why the ITRC encourages people, if it is legitimate, to participate in the identity verification process. It is an important way for you to protect yourself and it creates more barriers criminals must try to successfully evade to commit payment app scams.

If you decide you want to verify your identity with Venmo, you can do so by going to your Venmo app, opening up your settings, and tapping “identity verification.” Prompts will then guide you throughout the process. You can only do this on the Venmo app and not the website.

How to Stay Safe on Venmo

While you are better protected if you verify your identity on Venmo, scams and identity crimes can still happen. Here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Enable all the security features like screen lock/biometric lock and Find my Phone to keep hackers from accessing your payment app and stealing login credentials or money.
  • Use a strong and unique password to reduce the risk of hacking. The ITRC recommends a passphrase that is at least 12 characters long.
  • Beware of phishing attacks and avoid unsolicited emails or text messages that ask you to send money directly through Venmo. Never click on any links or attachments in messages you aren’t expecting. Criminals may send people an unsolicited payment request through a mobile app.
  • Look for red flags like payments you did not make using Venmo. If you are victimized, you should report it to Venmo, change your account password and consider scanning your device with antivirus software.
  • Consider other cyber-hygiene practices like multifactor authentication using an app on your phone. Also, consider taking advantage of Venmo’s new privacy settings and limit the number of people who can see your account by going to “Settings” and then “Privacy” in the Venmo app. Additional layers of protection will keep your account more secure.

Contact the ITRC

If you want to learn more about how to verify your identity on Venmo, have questions or concerns about the process, or believe you are the victim of a cash app identity crime, contact the ITRC. You can speak with an advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

LexisNexis talks with the ITRC in the newest Fraudian Slip podcast about the impact of identity fraud in the government & business sectors and how you can prevent identity fraud 

  • This month’s Fraudian Slip podcast talks about the steady growth of cybercriminals using stolen information to commit identity fraud.  
  • In the final ten months of 2020, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) helped about 750 individuals who were the victims of unemployment identity fraud. On June 2, the ITRC surpassed the number of identity-related unemployment fraud victims for 2020 in only six months.  
  • The ITRC sat down with LexisNexis, a leading provider of information used to mitigate risks, to discuss identity crimes, how you can prevent identity fraud and much more. Listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip
  • You can also learn more about identity fraud in government and business, other topics discussed in the podcast, and how to protect yourself from identity fraud and compromises by visiting the ITRC’s website
  • If you think you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised, you can call us, chat live online, send an email or leave a voicemail for an expert advisor to get advice on how to respond. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.  

Below is a transcript of our podcast with special guest Haywood J. “Woody” Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Special Services 

Welcome to The Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud that impact people and businesses.   

This month, June, we’re going to dig into a trend impacting consumers, businesses, government agencies and other institutions. That trend is the steady growth of cybercriminals using stolen information to commit identity crimes. How can you prevent identity fraud? 

Identity theft occurs when a person’s or business’s information is stolen. Identity fraud is when that information is misused, and there is a lot of misuse going on these days. At the ITRC, in the final ten months of 2020, we helped about 750 individuals who were the victims of unemployment identity fraud – which is to say a criminal used their personal information to apply for unemployment benefits in their home state or other states.  

On June 2, the ITRC surpassed the number of identity-related unemployment fraud victims for 2020 in only six months, with four months left until the enhanced benefits that are attracting criminals expire.  

At the root of the rise in identity fraud is the billions of bits of personal information available to cybercriminals that can be used to pretend to be just about any adult in the U.S. While that may sound intimidating, there are groups whose mission is to help prevent information misuse and to ensure people “are who they say they are” to make sure benefits and privileges go to the actual person who needs them. They ensure the benefits do not go to a professional imposter halfway around the world, an organized crime ring or just garden variety criminals down the street. 

Helping us make sense of how you can prevent identity fraud is the ITRC’s CEO Eva Velasquez and Haywood J. “Woody” Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Special Services, a leading provider of information used to mitigate risks.   

We talked with Haywood J. “Woody” Talcove about the following: 

  • What LexisNexis does to help mitigate risk. 
  • The impact of identity fraud in the government and business sectors. 
  • What can be done to prevent and mitigate identity fraud by government and business (information as both a risk and the solution). 

We talked with Eva Velasquez about the following: 

For answers to all of these questions and more on how you can prevent identity fraud, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip Podcast.   

Contact the ITRC 

You can learn more about identity fraud as well as get help if you have been the victim of an identity crime by visiting the ITRC’s website at www.idtheftcenter.org. While you are there, sign up for our emails that alert you to the latest scams, monthly data breach updates and tips to protect your identity. 

Be sure and join us next week for our sister podcast, the Weekly Breach Breakdown, and next month for another episode of The Fraudian Slip.  

  • The proper disposal of e-waste – old electronic devices that are no longer used – is a priority, particularly for protecting personal data. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reported 78 data compromises in 2020 around “physical attacks”; 52 percent of them from device theft and improper disposal.
  • E-waste puts personal information at risk and can have environmental impacts, too. It is why individuals need to adopt good e-waste solutions by educating themselves on the issue, re-evaluating their needs for more electronics and safeguarding their information.
  • Most people do not know how to recycle e-waste. Individuals should reuse electronics, if possible, and donate their old devices to be recycled if not. When people get rid of old electronics, they should put all of the data on a backup system and then wipe the device clean of personal information.
  • For more information, or if you believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the ITRC toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) 2020 Data Breach Report, there were 78 “physical attacks” in 2020. Device theft and improper disposal (which includes electronic devices) made up 52 percent of the attacks. The Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report finds more than one thousand cases of loss involving mobile devices in 2019.

As technology continues to evolve, users and manufacturers are finding more ways to keep safety, environmental impact and security measures in mind – which revolve around how to recycle e-waste. Issues range from the risk of fire from batteries, devices being sent to landfills, and disposal of information that could lead back to a user’s account and put them at risk of identity theft.

What Are E-Waste Solutions?

There are a handful of e-waste solutions consumers should keep in mind.

  1. Education: People should learn about the dangers of e-waste and what they can do about it.
  2. Re-evaluating the need: One e-waste solution is to minimize e-waste itself. Do you need that extra device? What are you doing with your devices once you are done with them? Are you reusing electronics? Re-evaluating your need for electronics can help cut down on how many devices end up in a landfill.
  3. Safeguarding information: Before you dispose of any electronics, you should make sure you save your data on a backup system or hard drive and then wipe the device clean. That way, no one can access your files if the device is improperly recycled or ends up in the wrong hands. If you are getting rid of a phone, do a factory reset to restore the phone to “empty status.” By taking these steps, you are protecting your personal information.

How to Recycle E-Waste

Instead of discarding electronics, the best e-waste solution is to reuse or recycle devices. Local governments are increasingly hosting e-cycling initiatives. These programs keep electronics out of landfills and ensure devices are wiped clean of all user data. You can search online for e-cycling centers near you before disposing of electronics, including IoT devices and medical devices.

Many device manufacturers also accept old devices to be refurbished or recycled and provide credit toward a new device. Some will take a device from any manufacturer for recycling. Check with your device maker to see if they offer a recycling program.

Contact the ITRC

It is vital everyone does their part to help address e-waste to protect the environment and people’s personal information. If you have questions about how to recycle e-waste, other e-waste solutions, or you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact us. You can speak with one of our expert advisors toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started. 

  • When doing your spring cleaning, consider making a digital spring-cleaning checklist. It is more important than ever in today’s digital-first society.
  • Digital spring-cleaning tips include backing up your information, deleting unused apps, reviewing all of your passwords (and making changes if needed), and checking your social media privacy settings.
  • It is also a good idea to delete or archive old emails, especially with sensitive information.
  • If you would like to learn more or believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can check out our latest resources or speak to an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Everyone looks forward to the spring! The weather changes, the flowers and landscape start to bloom, and people clean out clutter they don’t need before the summer arrives. While spring cleaning may make you feel good and productive, it is also a great way to minimize the risk of identity theft. With the move to a digital-first society, digital spring cleaning and having a digital spring-cleaning checklist is more important than ever. A few basic digital spring-cleaning steps could help keep one’s identity information out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

There are digital spring-cleaning steps to take before you have to deal with clutter. One possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the habit of not just deleting unwanted emails, but actively unsubscribing from them. To do that, open the email, scroll down and click “unsubscribe.” Do not follow these steps for emails that appear to be scam attempts. If you click on a malicious link, it can redirect you to harmful websites or install malicious software on your computer. Instead, you should avoid links or attachments in unsolicited messages and block the sender.

One other thing you can do is update your contact information. Review all of your contact information to ensure it is up-to-date and you are not missing any essential information. Once you take these steps, you can begin on your digital spring-cleaning checklist.

Digital Spring-Cleaning Checklist

Your digital identity becomes more important every day as the world moves to a digital-first model. However, the same principles behind decluttering your physical world can help you in the virtual space. Here are some digital spring-cleaning checklist tips to digitally declutter:

  1. Backup your information– No matter how safe and secure you are, you might need to recover old data in the future. Creating automatic backups is a good idea. Consider investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription to store and protect the things you want to keep.
  2. Delete unused programs and apps– Take a look at all of the apps on your devices and figure out which ones you are not using. Delete unused apps or programs on the devices. This step is a good idea because some apps require large amounts of storage, can slow the device down, and most importantly, can introduce new vulnerabilities. The fewer apps and programs you have, the more secure your device and personal information will be.
  3. Review your passwords– Check the passwords for all of your accounts to ensure there are no duplicates (especially between work accounts and personal accounts). Also, make sure you use a strong and unique 12+ character passphrase for each account. They are easier to remember and harder to crack. If you cannot remember all of your passwords, consider investing in a password manager to store all of your passwords. Finally, if possible, enable multifactor authentication (MFA) on all of your accounts. The app version is better than the SMS version because scammers can create fake MFA SMS text messages.
  4. Update all of your apps and settings– When going through your digital spring-cleaning checklist, it is important to keep apps, programs and devices up-to-date on all software. The device will run faster, and it will lead to increased privacy, which will make it more difficult for someone to hack into them. It is also a good idea to enable automatic updates when possible.
  5. Look at the permissions you allow– Pay attention to the permissions you allow the mobile apps on your device because third-parties could be tracking information about you that you might not realize. If they aren’t actively using the collected data, they may still be storing it, leaving your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a data compromise.
  6. Review plugins and add-ons in your browser- Review the permission settings of the plugins and add-ons to make sure you are not sharing too much information. If you are not using a particular plugin or add-on anymore, delete it.
  7. Review your social media privacy settings– Check your privacy settings on all of your social media accounts to ensure you are not oversharing information with people you do not know. If criminals get a hold of enough information about you, your family and your friends, they can connect enough dots to commit scams based around social engineering.
  8. Clean out your email– Get rid of any unnecessary emails in your inbox, especially emails that contain personal information.

Other Digital Spring-Cleaning Tips

There are a few more spring-cleaning tips for people to follow:

  • While doing your spring cleaning, if there are important documents you might need later, you can photograph or scan them, and then store the originals in a secure space like a safe or bank safety deposit box.  
  • While you’re cleaning your email inbox, take a moment to destroy any paper documents you no longer need, especially those records with personal information.
  • It is also a good idea to organize your digital files. While it is time-consuming, it will make more space available for the most important things that need to be stored on your devices.

Contact the ITRC

If you have more questions about digital spring cleaning, a digital spring-cleaning checklist, or if you believe you are a victim of identity theft, contact us. You can chat with an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. You can also check out our latest resources. Just go to www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

The IDSA shares with the ITRC in the newest Fraudian Slip podcast exploring identity management & the future of identity

  • This week, the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) celebrated Identity Management Day, hosted by the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA). The day raised awareness on the importance of identity management, securing digital identities and sharing best practices to help organizations and consumers.
  • The ITRC sat down with the IDSA to discuss how identity management has changed, the future of identity, how identity crimes are changing and much more.
  • To learn more, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip
  • You can also learn more about the identity-related crimes discussed in the podcast and how to protect yourself from identity fraud and compromises by visiting the ITRC’s website.
  • If you think you are the victim of an identity crime or your identity has been compromised, you can call us, chat live online, send an email or leave a voice mail for an expert advisor to get advice on how to respond. Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Below is a transcript of our podcast with special guest Julie Smith, Executive Director of the Identity Defined Security Alliance

Welcome to The Fraudian Slip, the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) podcast, where we talk about all-things identity compromise, crime and fraud that impact people and businesses. 

This month, April, we’re going to talk about one of the hottest topics in the world of cybersecurity, privacy and identity. Namely, the shift from what we think of as traditional identity theft to what is increasingly more common today – identity-based fraud.

As more organizations analyze their 2020 data and information from the first three months of 2021, there is a common theme. Cybercriminals are less interested in mass attacks seeking to scoop up as much information as possible about consumers. Instead, data thieves are focusing on attacking organizations where they can hold data for ransom, or where an attack against a single company can yield information from all the customers who rely on the breached business.

At the core of many of these attacks are identity credentials, little pieces of information that once upon a time was pretty much limited to your driver’s license, Social Security number and occasionally your mother’s maiden name. Today, identity credentials are everything from your login and password, which is more valuable than your credit card information to a cybercriminal, to the location where you use your smartphone.

The complexity of identity today makes it simultaneously more difficult to protect your identity while also making it easier to prove you are who you say you are.

This week we celebrated Identity Management Day to raise awareness of the importance of identity management, securing digital identities and sharing best practices to help organizations and consumers. Be Identity Smart. 

Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) hosted the day.

We talked with Executive Director of IDSA Julie Smith about the following:

  • The IDSA, its members, and issues
  • How identity management has changed
  • A businesses role in managing and protecting consumer identities; the most important actions to take
  • The future of identity

We also talked with ITRC CEO Eva Velasquez about the following: 

  • How identity crimes are changing
  • Consumer self-management and protection; the most important actions to take
  • The future of identity

For answers to all of these questions, listen to this week’s episode of The Fraudian Slip Podcast

Contact the ITRC or IDSA

You can learn more about data privacy, cybersecurity, the future of identity and other identity-related issues by visiting the ITRC’s website www.idtheftcenter.org. If you want to learn more about the IDSA and its work, you can visit www.idsalliance.org.

If you have questions about how to protect your personal information, or if you believe you have been the victim of an identity crime or compromise, talk to one of our expert advisers on the phone (888.400.5530), by live-chat or by email during normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit www.idtheftcenter.org to get started.

Be sure and join us next week for our Weekly Breach Breakdown podcast and next month for another episode of The Fraudian Slip.