Why Some of Us Are More Likely to Be Targets of Cybercrime
presented by Alison Wilcox
Each year, the incidence of identity theft rises, but did you know that cybercriminals actually prey on some groups of people more often than others? Who are these more vulnerable victims? Why are they more likely to be the targets of cyberscams?
Group 1: Social Media Users
Today, it’s common for internet users to have at least three social media accounts (e.g., on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter), and these are popular sources used by fraudsters to access personal information. Identity thieves use details found on social media sites to get past security questions to access online accounts. Hackers then pretend that they’re the owners of the accounts and, for example, withdraw money from the real owners’ bank accounts.
Group 2: Seniors
After a lifetime of work, many seniors have built up healthy nest eggs and typically have more liquid funds. Cyberthieves see rich opportunities in this age group. Seniors are also common targets of scam phone calls, including the IRS scam. In this type of attack, a scammer calls, pretending to be from the IRS, and asks for personal and payment information. The “grandparents” scam is another example; in it, the fraudster pretends to be a family member with an urgent request for financial assistance.
In addition, seniors tend to use the health-care system more than younger people. With many seniors insured through Medicare, their personal information tends to be held at multiple medical facilities, perhaps putting them at greater risk of information theft.
Group 3: 18- to 29-Year-Olds
People in this age group are very active online, and it’s also an age when people are opening new lines of credit, including applying for credit cards and taking on student loans or home mortgages. In addition, they typically use more technology—smartphones, tablets, laptops—especially when on the go, and they are more apt to use public Wi-Fi networks and to shop online. All of these things make 18- to 29-year-old susceptible to cyber crime.
Group 4: Children
Identity thieves look at minors’ social security numbers and credit histories as clean slates. If a minor’s social security number has never been used, then, when a criminal uses it to open a line of credit, a loan, or another kind of account, the bank or financial institution checking applications probably won’t see any red flags and will simply grant the request. This type of fraud usually isn’t discovered until the minor turns 18—when he or she tries to open a bank account or applies for a credit card or loan and is rejected.
Tips to Help Protect Your Identity
Despite the increasing prevalence of ID theft, we can take steps to mitigate our risks:
• Keep an eye on your finances and your debit and credit card accounts. Monitor them regularly so that you can spot any unusual activity.
• Be aware of the personal information you share online that is available for others to see. Remember that identity thieves can collect pieces of information and piece them together to answer security questions and access your accounts either online or over the phone.
• Consider purchasing identity theft protection. Identity theft protection solutions monitor your lines of credit, finances, name, and personal information attached to your name and social security number. Some services cover minors and regularly check the credit reports of children under the age of 18.
• Be wary when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. You never know whether an identity thief with the right hacker tools is on the same network as you, tracking your activity and stealing your personal information.
• Don’t carry your social security card around with you.
• Don’t use your social security number as your Medicare account number.