Identity theft continues to be a rapidly growing crime in the United States despite industry efforts to improve security measures, according to a new study by Javelin Strategy & Research, a California-based consulting firm.
Incidents of identity theft jumped by 16 percent to affect 6.15 percent of U.S. consumers in 2016, for a total of $16 billion, Javelin Strategy & Research found. By comparison, 13.1 million consumers were targeted for a total of about $15 billion in 2015, researchers said.
Identity theft comes in many different forms, including financial, medical, social media, criminal, and Social Security. It can affect anyone, from children to seniors. Understanding the complexities involved in identity management is a vital component of many cybersecurity programs.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 85 percent of U.S. citizens have taken the necessary steps to prevent identity theft. Measures include shredding documents containing account numbers and personal information and signing up for credit monitoring services such as Credit Karma, TransUnion, or Experian.
As technology evolves and thieves create new ways to steal personal information, more identity-protection services are coming into the marketplace. A good starting point for consumers is password-management services, free and paid versions of which are available for PC and iOS devices.
Identity Theft Protection Services
Fraud detection and prevention will increase from a $14.3 billion industry in 2016 to a $33.1 billion industry by 2021, according to market researchers, indicating that consumers are becoming more serious about identity protection.
Some of the more popular and respected identity protection services are:
LifeLock promises it will cover up to $1 million in cash or assets stolen from accounts under its protection. The company also guarantees a reduction in pre-approved credit card offers, black market website surveillance, address change verification, and 24/7 U.S.-based agents.
With more than 4 million customers worldwide and more than 9,000 reviews on Google, LifeLock appears to be a leader in identity-theft protection. LifeLock coverage includes a variety of services:
• Fictitious identity monitoring
• Data breach notifications
• Court record scanning
• Annual credit reports and scores
• Personal financial account notifications
• Investment account alerts
• Checking and savings applications alerts
• Credit inquiry activity
• Sex offender registry reports
• Monthly credit score tracking
Identity Guard is highly rated by ConsumerAdvocate.org and claims to have protected more than 47 million consumers. Though Identity Guard offers many of the same features as its competitors, it also has some unique components:
• Social Security monitoring
• Lost wallet protection that includes up to $2,000 for emergencies
• PC password protection
• PC keyboard encryption software
• Account access via the mobile app
• PC antivirus software
IdentityForce is the only company in the field to receive the seal of approval from Parent Tested, Parent Approved, a nationally recognized volunteer parent-testing community. IdentityForce is also a repeat winner of Javelin Strategy and Research’s Identity Protection Award.
IdentityForce offers the following features:
• Anti-keylogging software
• Anti-phishing software
• Removal of personal information from online databases with a simple “Delete Now” feature
• Medical ID fraud and protection
• Junk email opt-out
• Credit score simulator
• Fully managed identity restoration by a trained staff that does the work for you
Password Manager Vaults
A password manager vault provides a safer and more reliable alternative to typing passwords into a Word document or saving them in the notes section of a smartphone.
Many password managers allow users to sync web-based passcodes across all devices for automatic verification and sign in. New enhancements include one-step password changes that refresh across all associated devices, and automatic sign-in to frequently used websites.
The best password vaults are encrypted and generate complex passcodes with unique sequences of numbers, letters, and special characters.
Some of the more popular free password manager vaults are:
• LastPass 4.0
• LogMeOnce Password Management Suite
• 1U Password Manager
• Empass Password Manager 5
• KeePass 2.34
• Symantec Norton Identity Safe
Some of the more popular paid options include:
Credit Report Monitors
The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) dictates how a credit reporting organization handles data to protect credit information. The FCRA provides consumers one free copy per year of their credit reports from each of the major credit agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Consumers can request their reports on the phone, by mail or through the government-sponsored website, annualcreditreport.org
Other credit monitoring services provide similar free information but are not authorized by the federal government. In some cases, the for-profit companies use information to send credit card solicitations to customers. They include:
• Credit Karma
• Credit Sesame
The Right Protection
Cybersecurity experts are at the forefront of identity protection. They advise consumers looking for a fraud protection solution to weigh factors such as program features and costs, as well as the ability to synchronize across platforms. An identity management service, credit monitoring website, or password manager vault is an investment that depends on individual needs and choices. Many fee-based programs often do not guarantee that personal data will not be compromised. In many cases, credit monitoring and identity protection can be accomplished for free.
Maryville University – Online Degree in Cybersecurity
Maryville University offers undergraduate and Master’s degrees in cybersecurity with three tracks: general, offensive, and defensive. Each track provides the tools for students to excel in the workplace and understand the complexities of identity theft and identity management. Course topics include cryptography, cloud security, incident handling, mobile forensics, and penetration testing. Students can log into their classroom anywhere, on any device, at any time with the Maryville Virtual Lab.
More information is available at Maryville University’s online cybersecurity website.