• The trendline continues to point to a record-breaking year for data compromises.  Phishing is far and away the primary way criminals attack businesses & individuals. 
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) data breach tracking tool, notified.  
  • If you believe you are the victim of an identity crime or a data breach, contact the ITRC. Call toll-free at 888.400.5530 or live-chat on the company website   

The ITRC Goes to Washington 

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s)Weekly Breach Breakdown for October 8th, 2021. Our podcast is possible thanks to support from Experian. Each week we look at the most recent events and trends related to data security and privacy. This week we’re going to look at the data breach trends for the third quarter of 2021 and we’re going to talk about a congressional hearing this week. That’s why we’re calling this episode – The ITRC Goes to Washington. Listen to the full episode on your preferred podcast platform.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation met to hear from a panel of experts on how to enhance data privacy & security. The ITRC was invited to share the latest data breach trends and offer suggestions on how to reduce the cyberattacks that lead to data breaches that ultimately may lead to an identity crime. 

2021 Data Breach Trends & Q3 Analysis 

Committee Chair Maria Cantwell of Washington started the hearing by sharing the latest stats on data breaches, pulled directly from the ITRC’s Q3 Data Breach Analysis that had been issued just about two hours earlier. And here’s what the report concluded: 

• The number of data compromises publicly-reported this year have already exceeded the total number of events in 2021 by 17 percent.  

• The trendline continues to point to a record-breaking year for data compromises. We are only 238 data events away from the all-time high set in 2017. It’s highly likely we will see a new high-water mark between a combined 1700 to 1800 data breaches, data exposures, and data leaks compared to 15.  

• The number of victims increased in Q3 by ~160M individuals. That’s more than all victims in Q1 & Q2 combined. That’s a huge jump and it means a lot of people are at risk of an identity crime, but about 100M of those people are victims of a data exposure related to 20 organizations that did not secure their cloud databases.  Those are lower-risk events since the data had not been copied or removed from the database where it was stored. 

Phishing is far and away the primary way criminals attack businesses & individuals. Ransomware is so pervasive, though, that the total number of data breaches related to a ransomware attack against an organization so far this year exceeds the total number of ALL types of data compromises last year. 

• There is a disturbing trend developing where organizations and state agencies are not sharing specifics about data compromises or reporting them on a timely basis. One state has not posted a data breach notice in the past 12 months.  

• There is some good news in the latest data breach numbers: There have been no publicly reported data compromises in 2021 attributed to payment card skimming devices. If this trend continues, this will be the first year since chip & PIN payment cards were first introduced where they have been no reported data breaches caused by skimmers.  

3 Actions To Address Identity Crimes

The Senate also asked the ITRC for recommendations on how to address the interrelated issues of cyberattacks, data breaches, and identity crimes. We offered three actions that we believe will be helpful: 

• Better cybersecurity standards and practices that are enforceable 

• Better enforcement of laws and regulations 

• And, a better victim notification system  

We also suggested there also needs to be discussion around how to better support victims of identity crimes. 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month 

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the ITRC encourages you to take this time to learn how to protect yourself, your family, and friends from cyber and identity criminals. You’ll find a wealth of information on our website – Later this month we’ll release our first report on what happens to small businesses and solopreneurs when they suffer a cyber or identity crime. And in November, the ITRC will unveil a new website with new tools and ways to communicate with or team of identity advisors. 

On October 27, we’ll issue our very first Business Aftermath Report. As a companion to our longtime report on the impact of identity crimes on consumers, the Business Aftermath Report will look at what happens to small businesses and solopreneurs after a security breach, a data breach or both.  

Contact the ITRC 

If you think you have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and you need help figuring out what to do next, you can speak with an ITRC expert advisor on the phone (888.400.5530), chat live on the web or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Just visit to get started.  

Thanks again to Experian for supporting the ITRC and this podcast. Be sure to join us next week for another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown. 

The ITRC’s three-year study shows nearly 30 percent of victims have been the victim of a previous identity crime; an all-time high number of victims say they have contemplated suicide

SAN DIEGO, May 26, 2021- The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC), a nationally recognized nonprofit organization established to support victims of identity crime, has published research that shows nearly 30 percent of people who contact the ITRC are victims of more than one identity crime. The study – the 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report – released today covers the 36 months from 2018-2020 and goes beyond the known financial implications of identity crimes and explores the emotional, physical and psychological impacts experienced by victims.

For the report, 427 identity crime victims who contacted the organization between January 2018 and December 2020 responded to questions about the impact of identity compromises. The survey, which the ITRC has conducted since 2003, discovered that many of the respondents experienced impacts that resulted in definable emotional impacts, physical consequences and lost opportunities. For example, the report shows the highest level of victims who say they have considered suicide – 10 percent – in the 18-year history of the Consumer Aftermath Report.

The ITRC study includes a special focus on victims of pandemic-related identity fraud, including:

  • Thirty-three (33) percent who did not have enough money to buy food or pay for utilities.
  • Forty (40) percent who were unable to pay their routine bills.
  • Fourteen (14) percent who were evicted for non-payment of rent or mortgage.
  • Fifty-four (54) percent who said they felt violated as a result of their identity being misused

Download the ITRC’s 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report

“The 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report shows that the effects of identity theft, particularly during COVID-19, are far-reaching and accelerating,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Even pre-pandemic, for roughly 30 percent of these individuals, this is the second identity crime committed against them. Generally, these victims cannot pay their rent or mortgage, put food on the table, gas in their cars or afford to pay for internet access or childcare needed to look for new employment. In the report, you see the range of emotions – anger, frustration, fear, hopelessness – in their own words. It is crucial we share these findings so others can better understand the ramifications of identity crimes, as well as help force change to better support these victims.”

“While we have all adjusted to masks and social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, for victims of identity fraud, the pandemic has created an entirely new set of risks,” said John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications and Fraud and an ITRC Board Member. “It might be tempting to focus only on the considerable harm that identity fraud does to consumers. However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the costs to businesses due to lost productivity and lower morale as employees manage their recovery and to taxpayers as fraudsters raid unemployment insurance funds.”

Another critical finding discovered in the 2021 Consumer Aftermath Report is pre-pandemic, identity crime victims struggled with the financial, emotional and physical impacts of having their identities misused. Eighty-three (83) percent of victims could not rent an apartment or find housing and 67 percent incurred debt to meet financial obligations. Also, 84 percent reported being anxious or worried and 76 percent feeling violated.

“The risk of having one’s identity stolen and used to perpetuate fraud may be the least studied, most common, criminal experience that individuals can encounter,” said Brandn Green, Research Scientist at Development Services Group. “The work done by the ITRC in their report to quantify and demonstrate the experiences of victims is invaluable.”

Consumers and victims can receive free support and guidance from a knowledgeable live advisor by calling 888.400.5530 or visiting to live-chat. 

About the Identity Theft Resource Center   

Founded in 1999, the Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) is a nonprofit organization established to empower and guide consumers, victims, business and government to minimize risk and mitigate the impact of identity compromise and crime. Through public and private support, the ITRC provides no-cost victim assistance and consumer education through its website live-chat, toll-free phone number 888.400.5530 and ID Theft Help app. The ITRC also equips consumers and businesses with information about recent data breaches through its data breach tracking tool, notified.    

Media Contact  

Identity Theft Resource Center  
Alex Achten  
Earned & Owned Media Specialist  
888.400.5530 Ext. 3611   

Sparking joy has taken on a whole new meaning thanks to the KonMari method of tidying up. Cleaning up your physical and digital life are some ways to prevent identity theft.

Marie Kondo took the world by storm in 2019 with the premise of decluttering your life, tidying up your home and workspaces and living by a simple principle: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” you don’t need it. The mindset behind the so-called KonMari method proved to be so effective that second-hand stores and thrift shops saw record-setting levels of donations.

This decluttering concept can be applied to physical possessions, but you should also consider its ability to benefit other areas of life. For example, you might clean up your email inbox or desktop. There’s another level of protection that consumers can take from this “spark joy” concept, and that’s keeping their identities out of a criminal’s hands.

Before You Begin

Several steps can help you organize your identity before you ever have to deal with cluttering consequences. These would include things like halting subscriptions to magazines and newspapers you don’t read, blocking credit card offers with your financial institutions and going “paperless” on bills and bank statements. By ensuring these things don’t arrive at your home, you’ll have less clutter to deal with and fewer security pitfalls that a thief could exploit.

Another possible vulnerability is your email inbox. Adopt the good habit of not just deleting unwanted emails but actively unsubscribing from them. You will have to open them, scroll down and click unsubscribe. Do not follow this procedure for emails that appear to be scam attempts. Clicking a link can redirect you to a harmful website 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. There are other ways to prevent identity theft.

Physical Mail

As for identity tidying in your home or workplace, that can seem very daunting. Don’t worry; it’s not. By following commonly shared methods from organizational experts like Marie Kondo and others, you can start by creating “piles.” Establish a temporary spot for everything that could be linked back to your identity: a pile for bills, a pile for junk mail and a pile for important papers.

  • The bills: Your monthly statements must be accessible but protected. Find out where you are most likely to see them but keep others from coming across them. As you pay a bill, shred the remaining mailer portion so that you don’t end up with random piles of paper that will need to be addressed later.
  • Junk mail: It’s too easy to toss some junk mail on the counter and think you’ll deal with it later. It’s even easier to throw it in the trash unopened. However, that could lead a dumpster-diving identity thief to pieces of your overall data puzzle. Keep a basket near your cross-cut shredder to stash these items until you’re ready to shred.
  • Important papers: Many people would agree that tax documents, health insurance statements and other key forms don’t “spark joy” and therefore should be done away with immediately. However, that’s not wise. What is helpful is investing in a small file cabinet or file box where important papers can be stored when they are not needed. The file must be accessible in an emergency but not left out in the open where anyone could rifle through it.

Digital Clutter

Your digital identity becomes more important every day as the world evolves to a digital-first model. However, the same principles behind decluttering can help you in the virtual space. Investing in an external hard drive or cloud-based storage subscription can protect the things you want to keep while getting them out of your physical space. Even better, if there’s a paper you might need at a later date, you can photograph it or scan it, then store it in these outside spaces. That way, you can discard the original but retain a protected printable copy if you need it. 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 these devices.

Mobile Apps & Privacy Settings:

  1. Take a look at all of the apps on your device – are there any you’re not using anymore? Delete those.
  2. Visit your mobile device settings to see what information your applications collect from you and update them for increased privacy. For example, you might need to let a map app see your location, but does it need to be active all the time or just when in use? The same thing for photos, do all of your apps need access to your media library? It’s also a good time to run any updates for your phone software or apps.

You should also pay attention to the permissions you allow the mobile apps on your device. Third-parties might be tracking information about you that you might not realize like your location, search history and even your photos through these apps. If they aren’t actively using this collected data, they’re still storing it, leaving your personal information vulnerable to cyberattacks should the third-party fall victim to a breach. Also, think twice before discarding an old device and be sure to reset your factory settings.

Finally, make sure all of the passwords are different for each of your accounts and use a 12+ character passphrase. Right now, threat actors are after credentials more than in years past. You should have a different password for each account and use multifactor authentication if possible for an added layer of security. If you follow these steps, you will be enacting different ways to prevent identity theft. 

Contact the ITRC

If you have questions about tidying up your identity and ways to prevent identity theft, or if you believe you are a victim, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center. You can reach an expert advisor toll-free by phone (888.400.5530) or live-chat. You can also find resources on an array of identity-related topics. Just go to to get started.

The post was originally published on 2/15/19 and was updated on 4/6/21

  • According to a report from Javelin Strategies, traditional identity theft is declining. However, what one might think of as identity theft is being replaced by identity fraud.
  • trend identified by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in 2020. Cybercriminals continue to move away from mass data breaches of consumer information to more targeted attacks like phishing, ransomware and supply chain attacks.
  • There is no reason for consumers to panic. One record exposed is one too many, but one can’t determine the risk represented by a data breach based on the size of the breach. Knowing what records are exposed is far more important than how many records are compromised.
  • To learn about recent data breaches, consumers and businesses should visit the ITRC’s new data breach tracking tool, notified. 
  • For more information, or if someone believes they are the victim of identity theft, consumers can contact the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530 or via live-chat on the company website

The Path is Smooth That Leadeth on to Danger

Welcome to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC) Weekly Breach Breakdown for April 2, 2021. Each week, we look at the most recent and interesting events and trends related to data security and privacy. Last week we talked about the FBI’s most recent cybercrime report that shows an exponential increase in cybercrime and the losses associate with it. This week we look at how people can assess what that really means for them or their business.

In his poem, Adonis and Venus, Shakespeare wrote, “The path is smooth that leadeth on to danger.” That is the title of this week’s episode, reflecting how our desire for convenience often leads to risky behaviors.

Traditional Identity Theft is on the Decline

Let’s start with a good and bad news trend. A report from Javelin Strategies is the latest to show that “traditional identity theft” is declining. That’s good news. However, here is the “but” people may be expecting: what we think of as identity theft is being replaced by identity fraud.

Identity Fraud Cases Are on the Rise

What does that mean? It’s part of the general trend we’ve discussed where cybercriminals move away from mass data breaches of consumer information to more targeted attacks. Phishing, ransomware and supply chain attacks are good examples of the kinds of exploits that allow criminals to hit a company. The criminals reap hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single organization instead of the old-school way of attacking thousands of consumers.

However, less risk to individuals is not the same as low or no risk. In fact, the whole concept of identity fraud is based on using consumer behaviors to lure people into a scam. Maybe it’s a text that says someone’s Amazon account has been frozen, and the user needs to click on a link to verify their password to unlock it – and they do. They have just given them their login and password, which regulars of the podcast know are 10x more valuable to a data thief than a consumer’s credit card information.

Maybe someone gets an email from Google or Microsoft claiming their payment card is about to expire. All the user needs to click on is a link to log in and update their information. However, the email and login webpage are deep fakes, and the user just shared their login, password and credit card information with criminals.

All of these phishing techniques are predicated on our behaviors as humans, the need to instantly address any issue that appears by text or email in the most convenient way possible.

While different research reports come up with different identity fraud case totals, they all agree it is on the rise, and the dollar value starts with a B, as in billions. Right now, one might be thinking, “Well, that’s just great. Do I panic now or panic later?”

No Reason for Consumers to Panic

First, there is no reason to panic at all. People may have seen a media headline that talked about more records being exposed in data breaches in 2020 than in the past 15 years combined. While that is attention-grabbing, it’s not particularly meaningful.

One record exposed is one too many, but the reality is one can’t determine the risk represented by a data breach based on the size of the breach. Someone’s date of birth and Social Security number are two records. They may have been exposed thousands of times over the past 15 years, but they are still only two data points, and they don’t change.  However, the risk associated with each data point is very different.

Knowing what records are exposed is far more important than how many records are compromised. Knowing how to protect your own information is the most important information, and that’s where the ITRC can help.

Contact the ITRC

If anyone has questions about keeping their personal information private and how to protect it, they can visit, where they will find helpful tips on these and many other topics. 

If someone thinks they have been the victim of an identity crime or a data breach and needs help figuring out what to do next, they should contact us. People can speak with an expert advisor on the phone, chat live on the web, or exchange emails during our normal business hours (6 a.m.-5 p.m. PST). Visit to get started.  

Be sure to check out the most recent episode of our sister podcast, The Fraudian Slip. We will be back next week with another episode of the Weekly Breach Breakdown.  

  • Election scams are beginning to appear, prompting the FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to warn consumers that spoofed internet domains and email accounts pose cyber and disinformation risks to voters. 
  • Scammers are also looking to trick voters by mimicking ballot-tracking text services
  • Identity thieves are seeking many different forms of personally identifiable information (PII), looking to commit malware attacks, and creating fake websites to collect PII or spread false or misleading information. 
  • Consumers should never share PII, respond to any unexpected messages until they have verified the website address, email address or text message link by checking with the legitimate source.  
  • For more information, or if you fell victim to an election scam, reach out to the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 or on our website via live-chat.  

The general election is less than one month away, and scammers are aware. Multiple voting organizations are expressing concerns over fake election-related websites that look like official voting resources, but contain false or misleading information, as well as phishing emails that are designed to gather personally identifiable information (PII) or spread malware. Some states are also seeing scammers trying to trick voters with phony text messages, like in California, where they mimic ballot-tracking text services. The FBI and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) want to help people spot and avoid every form of election scam.  

Who It Is Targeting 

Voters; Online device users 

What It Is 

Scammers are using many different tactics to try to trick voters: 

  • They create fake election-related websites to spread misinformation, confuse people, or trick voters into sharing personal information ahead of the November 3 elections. According to the FBI and CISA, election scams around fake websites aim to mislead voters and try to use interest around voting to steal people’s passwords. Scammers create websites that try to imitate election websites by altering one or two letters in the site’s address.  
  • Another election scam the FBI and CISA want people to be aware of is phishing emails. Scammers email voters from spoofed addresses that appear to come from election officials.  
  • Scammers are using text messages to attack, too. Some text messages claim they are from the United States Postal Service (USPS). Others look like they are from the Registrar of Voters asking consumers to take a survey or re-register to vote. Some even offer prizes for voting or registering to vote. 

What They Are After 

“There’s risk to you personally,” James Lee, Chief Operating Officer of the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), told NBC 7 San Diego in an interview. “And in this case, because we’re talking about an election, there’s risk to our society. There’s risk to our country.” 

All of these election scams try to steal usernames, passwords or email addresses. They lead to the collection of PII and spread malware, leading to the potential of more compromises and financial losses in the future. 

What You Can Do 

  • Verify the spelling of all websites, email addresses or links in text messages. Make sure domains consist of http or https at the beginning of the domain, and .gov at the end if it is a government website. 
  • If you receive an unexpected or unsolicited email or text message, ignore it and do not click on any links. Go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message. 
  • Find election information from trustworthy websites, like the Election Assistance Commission.  
  • Make sure all of your applications are up-to-date and update your anti-virus and anti-malware systems. 
  • If possible, use two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts.  
  • Disable or remove unneeded applications from your devices. 

If you believe you are a victim of an election scam or want to learn more, contact the ITRC to speak with an expert advisor toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with us on our company website. 

Identity theft is not one single type of crime. There are many different ways a criminal can use your information, such as applying for government benefits, getting a job under your Social Security number, receiving medical care or prescription drugs in your name, and of course, the financial aspects. But stealing from your bank account or signing up for a new credit card in your name are just scraping the surface when it comes to the harm identity theft can cause.

Tax identity theft occurs when someone uses your compromised information to file a tax return in your name. They fudge the numbers, enter an unrelated refund dispersal option like a prepaid debit card, and make off with your money before you ever know that anything has gone wrong.

How do they get their hands on your data in the first place? There are many ways, including:

  • Imposter scams
  • Data breaches
  • Stolen mail or W-2s
  • CEO/HR phishing scams
  • Corrupt insiders/tax preparation services
  • Unsecured and public Wi-Fi hotspots
  • Social Security number that is lost, stolen or compromised

Of course, it’s just as easy for a criminal to purchase your previously stolen information online, then use it to file a fraudulent return.

How can you know if someone has filed a return with your stolen information? Again, you may find out in different ways, but one common way is for the IRS to inform you.

They don’t usually call you up and say, “Guess what? Someone stole your identity!” Instead, it’s a lot more likely that the IRS will reject your legitimate tax return because someone has already filed using your Social Security number. Another way is someone not necessarily filing the entire return in your name, but rather claiming your dependents on their return if they’ve stolen your kids’ identities; in that case, the IRS will still contact you about the duplicated dependents. Finally, the IRS might contact you if someone files a business return involving your identity as an employee and the agency wants you to answer for the unreported income you supposedly earned but didn’t list on your return.

The fact of tax identity theft is that hundreds of millions of consumers’ identities have been compromised in different data breaches over the years. That means no one is immune from the threat of having their tax refund stolen.

For more questions and answers about tax identity theft, read our tips here.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Tidying Up For Your Identity, Mobile Device and More…

In the age of the #selfie, there are millions of apps for users to apply teeth whitening, air brushing and the perfect filter for a flawless pic to be shared on social media. Unfortunately, downloading apps can also pose a security risk, depending on the app and the platform from which is was accessed.

Four million Android users who downloaded a popular app from the Google Play store are believed to have been infected with malware that has a variety of consequences. Some of these involve stealing access to your contacts list and pictures, while others actually redirect any popups to pornography websites. Trying to get rid of the app doesn’t work since the app remains hidden after deleting it, making it impossible to drag it to the delete garbage can icon.

The Google Play store for Android users and the App Store for iOS (Apple) users are two of the biggest app sources in the world, and they have two very different structures. Google believes in a more open-source approach, meaning any developer can list an app and users have a responsibility to read the reviews before downloading. Apple, on the other hand, has a reputation for being far more secure, but that comes at a price: listing an app on the iOS store can mean a lengthy wait while the app is tested and approved and a laundry list of requirements for developers to adhere to.

For better or worse, most of the affected apps in this case were downloaded in Asia. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t malicious apps that are targeting US users with similar harmful tactics. Logically, Android users stand to be at a somewhat higher risk than Apple users due to the open nature of the Google Play store, but that doesn’t mean iPhone and iPad users are immune to this threat.

No matter which mobile operating system you use, you’ve got to be careful with your device. Read the user reviews before you download an app, and make sure there aren’t any specific privacy concerns mentioned. Also, read the app description itself and get a good idea of what kinds of access the app needs. If an app wants too much information or access that it shouldn’t need in order to function, then it’s best to skip it.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Fortnite Bug Let Hackers Into Players Accounts

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and many people are looking to swipe right on a match through a dating app in hopes of meeting their suitor in real life. In 2018, Tindr alone processed a record 1.6 billion swipes a day. With 40 percent of Americans switching to online dating, there’s now an app for every kind of user preference including dog lovers, foodies and celebrity look alikes. With love in the air, scammers are also upping their game on these platforms in order to get your money or personal information. Let’s talk about how to swipe left on a romance scam.

Many popular dating apps like Tinder and Zoosk have reported numerous incidents of romance scams taking place on their platforms. Scammers are becoming more advanced in their techniques including using chatbots to reach more people at a faster rate and evolving their messages to remain current. To avoid being caught, scammers might also try to lure you off the dating app by claiming they are canceling their account or some other excuse. Don’t go breaking your heart or your bank, read more about how to detect a romance scam here.

When using dating apps you should always be conscious of the information you disclose and who you choose to talk to. Be extra leery if someone gives you excessive compliments, reveals in-depth information about themselves immediately, is located outside your country, asks for money or expresses interest in marrying right away. If you come across a scammer, report their profile right away to the company they have an account with. Never send anyone from a dating app money, passwords or login info to your accounts or personal contact information.

Who would’ve thought that swiping right on a popular dating app could get you in the hands of an identity thief? Kerrie Roberts with sponsor, Experian and Eva Velasquez of Identity Theft Resource Center weighs in on the ever so popular, “romance scams”.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: What’s the Latest Threat From Your Internet Connected Toys?

Malware is a growing threat, one that can impact everyone from a casual computer user to a Fortune 500 company. More than just a virus, malware is more like a catch-all term for any kind of malicious software that can infect a computer and be used for harm. Now, thanks to a new Swiss initiative and a team of volunteers, cybercriminals have a little less leverage for attacking computers.

The project, URLHaus, relied on volunteers within the cybersecurity company to seek out websites that distribute malware. These websites can infect your computer even if you don’t engage or if you visited by mistake, and it’s a common tactic that hackers use when they get you to fall for a phishing attempt. More than 100,000 of these websites have been identified and taken down in the last ten months.

A malicious website is just one of many different avenues for infecting your computer, but it’s a widely used method of attack. When a scammer sends out a phishing email that spoofs a known company, for example, the link within the email will often take the victim to a harmful website where the malware infection takes place. Common phishing emails include copycat messages from your bank telling you there’s a problem with your account, fake emails from known retailers like Amazon or PayPal, requests to verify your identity or account information, and many other believable messages.

Scammers can also use social media to get their victims to visit a harmful website. Private messages that appear to come from someone you know, telling you to click here to get this incredible deal or see these unbelievable pictures they found of you, for example, are widespread. Of course, actually paid ads for interesting products and fantastic sales can also redirect users to a fake website.

Once you visit the website and interact with it, the malware is installed on your computer or mobile device. It might be ransomware that locks up your computer, spyware or adware that tracks your online activity, a keylogger that steals everything you type (including account logins), and more.

So how does the cybersecurity industry fight back? One website at a time, which is why the project and its volunteers are so crucial to protecting tech users. Unfortunately, finding these websites scattered across the vast world wide web is a slow and tedious process; of course, getting the companies who host the sites to take them down can take even longer, about an average of eight days from the date of notification.

While the volunteers continue this vital work, the next step for URLHaus is to help those web hosting companies take action more immediately. Some companies respond within a day, while others take as long as a month. The bigger the company and the more customers they have hosting websites through their platform, the longer it can take to investigate a site that’s been reported.

In the meantime, there are some behaviors that tech users can deploy that will help them avoid some of these sites…

1. Never click a link in an email, text message, or social media message unless you’ve verified it with the sender; don’t just trust that you know the sender, either, since accounts can be hacked or copycatted.

2. Avoid clicking on ads in social media posts unless you can explicitly trust the company and the link. When in doubt, simply do a quick internet search for the product and the seller in order to look at the item more closely.

3. Most important of all, make sure you have a reputable security suite installed and updated. Antivirus software isn’t enough anymore, not with so many different threats out there. A lot of great software developers even offer their products at “freemium” pricing, which means there’s a price plan for every budget. There’s literally no excuse to not protect your tech.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: Getting the Most Out of Your Antivirus