According to BigCommerce, "96% of Americans with internet access have made an online purchase at some point in their lives, and four in five (80%) have done so in the last month alone."
It used to be that such companies offered their products solely on their website; however, with the clear majority of online shoppers hitting up Social Media, retailers are flocking to social sites to advertise their brands. While simplicity may be convenient, out in the shadows of the tech world lurches a hungry thief waiting for an unsecured network to hack a shopper's credit card information quickly.
In 2016, Bankrate.com reported that 41 million U.S. adults were such victims. Due to this alarming number making up approximately 13% of the U.S. population, the Federal Trade Commission established a site, IdentityTheft.gov. This site provides a list of warning for consumers to watch out for in the event their information may have been compromised.
Unknown bank withdrawals
Not receiving key bills/mail
Refusal of your checks from merchants
Unknown debt collection calls
Unfamiliar accounts/charges on your credit report
Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use
Rejections of medical claims from your health plan due to reaching benefit limits
Health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
IRS notification regarding more than one tax return being filed in your name
Notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
Source: IdentityTheft.gov (Federal Trade Commission)
There are some measures you can take to verify if you are a victim.
Below you will explore several preventive measures and ways to check.
1. The first step is credit monitoring.
Numerous companies offer such services, but it is important to note even these companies are not safe from being hacked. In 2017, Equifax reported a data breach in its security system. Late 2016, Yahoo announced a breach. These are just a minor few of such unfortunate victims.
2. Check your credit report.
It is highly recommended to check your credit report to find any discrepancies. Everyone is able to obtain a free report at www.annualcreditreport.com. With this report, you will receive status from all three credit reporting agencies. Ensure you are reviewing your transactions, credit inquiries, and any changes you may not recognize.
3. Get Help in Monitoring.
You are busy and don't have time to be browsing the web comparing services in prices, features, and value. Fortunately, Reviews.com has already done the homework for you. You can easily compare several services to get the professional help you need in picking a service. They have evaluated 18 companies and have identified the best identity theft protection services.
Establishing an account with services such as these companies above which will assist in freezing your credit to block predators from opening new accounts. Some services will also alert you via text message and phone call in the event of a new application being opened. Other such services will notify you in the event of an address change, spyware, online payday loans are more plus their services can range from as little as $9.99/month to $29.99/month as of the date of this article.
4. Get a Credit Freeze.
If you suspect that your information has been stolen, Bankrate.com recommends you freeze your credit immediately and change your online passwords. Pew Research conducted a survey to determine how aware and knowledgeable are Americans when it comes to Identity Theft. Some areas of concern and lack of education can range from "how can you identify phishing" to "obtain one free credit report annually.
5. Secure Your WiFi.
A far more worrisome sign is the lack of awareness on how unsecured wireless internet "wifi" can be. Also, private browsing is thought to be fully secure even though approximately 377,000 U.S. taxpayers were tax fraud victims as reported by the Internal Revenue Service.
When it comes to online shopping and its convenience, it is important to remember to maintain a certain level of security to ensure you do not become a victim of such travesty from the lurking shadows hiding with the IT world.
Establish a healthy habit of reviewing your credit report often and analyzing it to find any discrepancies such you do not become one of the many very unfortunate fraudsters.
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