Over the last few years, #identifytheft has leapfrogged all other crimes to top the list of crimes reported to the #FederalTradeCommission by U.S consumers. Unfortunately, the number and complexity of these crimes are growing every year. Put simply, though most of us remain blissfully unaware of it, ID theft is quickly spiraling out of control.
In July 2019, U.S bank holding company Capital One revealed that it had suffered a #databreach that had seen hackers make off with over 100 million records of people who had recently applied for a credit card.
Capital One revealed that 140,000 social security numbers and 80,000 bank account numbers of U.S citizens had been stolen. From these figures, it emerges that identity theft rose to the top of crimes reported by US customers and continues to affect millions of people. ID theft, unauthorized payments, and even blackmail are possible with the information that hackers steal every year.
Before proceeding, let’s ask ourselves one question: Is #artificialintelligence the solution needed to protect our information on a global scale? As new technologies emerge including #Deepcode, the focus should be on these solutions, as identity theft threatens our social relationships.
Numbers on Identity Theft
Let us make sense of the identity theft problem by crunching some numbers here.
The Bureau of Justice released some worrying statistics showing that 17M Americans experienced identity theft since 2017. The agency also noted that fraud-related losses amounted to at least $17M, with more anticipated in the coming months.
From Yahoo and Target to JP Morgan and Equifax, it is clear that identity theft is not slowing down anytime and from these statistics, it could worsen. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) deals with cybercrime issues and according to the organization; ID is a widespread problem that is more complicated than earlier thought. For instance,
ITRC reports that business breaches totaled to 907 and affected 180M people followed by 128 education-based breaches that affected 1.5M people. The healthcare sector was not spared either with 400 breaches affecting 5M people. In the same vein, government breaches increased to 80 while affecting 6M people. Lastly, the financial industry suffered losses with 150 breaches that affected 3M people.
Additionally, the ITRC claims that hacking is the popular identity theft method compared to others and estimated at 37%. Secondly, unauthorized access came to 30% followed by employee errors at 13%. Exposure on the internet totaled 10% followed by physical and insider theft at 5% and 4% respectively. Accordingly, third party related incidents amounted to 7% with the last one being data sources at 3%.
Cost implications of Identity Theft
Identity theft costs keep rising each year and this should be a matter of concern. For instance, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimates $450B in losses on a global scale from cybersecurity losses. Similar findings by McAfee estimate the annual cost of cybersecurity at $400B-$600B. The year 2017 saw data breaches and cybersecurity losses reach $11.7M and rose by 12% to $13M in 2018, as found by Ponemon Institute.
This research surveyed 400 companies’ globally in 10 nations and sought to determine the financial implications of cybersecurity losses such as detection, examination and management controls. The situation in the U.S, according to the survey, is worsening as losses from cybersecurity rose from $21.2M to $27.4M in 2018 reflecting a 29% rise. The banking sector also suffered cybersecurity losses estimated at $16.7M in 2017 and rose to $18.4M in 2018. Malware based attacks recorded the highest expenditure at $2.6M, with web attacks coming second at $2.3M.
The ITRC found hacking as the popular attack method used in identity theft in 2018 where data breaches amounted to 500 and affected 17M information sources such as financial records. Access without authorization came second at 400 breaches that consequently affected 400M information records and with the highest number of breaches.
Identity Theft Complaints Rising
The Federal Trade Commission tracked ID and fraud complaints and found an estimated 1.5M fraud incidents with victims losing money for 25% of the cases reported. For example, the cost of fraud increased from 2017 at $400M to $1.48B in 2018, with the average median cost each consumer paid totaling to $400. Scams from imposters amounted to $500M while 2018 saw all 15% of the reported complaints fall under identity theft. Also, note that identity theft cases reduced from 2015–2018 by an estimated 9% after which they rose again in 2018 by 20%.
How does Identity Theft take place?
The people responsible for identity theft are evil geniuses who are out there to cause trouble for innocent victims as they pursue their selfish interests. Just to mention, these criminals use tricks not understood by the public leading to massive loss of personal information/data.
Stealing is the first method that necessitates identity theft and involves physical contact of people with your personal information e.g., documents in your house or car. Dumpster search of information from documents is another technique used to access personal data and use it for their own objectives.
Do you know anonymous people can change your address by filling request forms and then access your information? Yes, this is another method that is fast spreading with people reporting complaints of their addresses changed without their consent. Still worried, here is another one- when you go to the gas station or eat out in a restaurant, criminals can swipe your card and clone information to a counterfeit credit card and purchase.
Emerging Identity Theft Methods
Tax identity theft involves stealing personal information where people copy your social security information and use it for file returns with government agencies such as IRS. Another emerging ID theft mechanism is anonymous people getting your medical information to access care services. The health insurance number is also used to benefit from your medical billing.
Senior citizens have also come under threat from identity theft because of caregivers who can access their data and give out or even use such information. At the same time, children based identity theft is increasing where adults manipulate the identity cards of children for their selfish gains. With the era of social media here, this represents another loophole that thieves can use to access your data and use the information.
Protecting yourself from Identity Theft
Examining your credit card report is the first step towards protecting yourself from identity theft. As mentioned, suspicious people use the credit card to steal your information and the least you can do is requesting your credit card every 3 or 4 months in order to check for any suspicious activities. Early checking matters when it comes to reducing ID theft.
Secondly, you should not respond to unsolicited messages, which ask for personal information including social security number, name, and date of birth. Software updates on your computer are critical to avoid infiltration of viruses, which most often lead to theft of personal information.
Developing a fraud alert is another method of preventing identity theft as this keeps you informed about suspicious activities in your personal information. Using fraud alerts keeps suspicious people away from your data and communicating with credit card companies safeguards your information. Another technique is to shred your personal data to avoid third party exposure. Impersonators also pose threats to your information for instance on your smartphone or when accessing your social media accounts.
How do you check if your information has been stolen?
Criminals develop many tactics that you may not understand, and this goes to show the importance of checking regularly for compromised identity. Sometimes, you can receive requests asking you to provide information about yourself. Do not accept these requests as this could lead to people stealing your information.
Checking and reviewing your bills such as water and electricity is important to ensure that that you get updates about your information and transactions. Many people ignore this and realize later when the damage is already done. Your bank statement comes second and you should always check to confirm that all transactions belong to you. Do not hesitate to contact your bank whenever you suspect anything fishy.
The next one is your mail. Keep checking emails and when you suddenly stop getting mails or another bill gets to your mail. This could imply something is going on and acting early is the best solution to avoid further damage. You should also check credit information regularly by reviewing all the figures. Health insurance is another common loophole used to access your information and disregarding this could lead to costly implications.
Applications such as Lifelock can help alert you when identity theft is likely to occur, and 1Password can alert you when your passwords may be compromised or vulnerable to attack by third-party actors. Platforms such as Privacy.com can offer you one-time credit card numbers to prevent recurring purchases on trial-offers or credit card skimmers on phishing sites to compromise your credit card. Using 2 Factor Authentication on platforms such as Authy can protect your digital accounts from being compromised. It is preferred to use an app such as Authy, rather than text-code verification, as this style of defense has been known to be compromised recently.
Learn how to Report Identity Theft
Early reporting of identity theft according to experts is the best strategy of avoiding damage. The Federal Trade Commission is the first organization you should contact whenever you suspect identity theft.
Another website you can use is IdentityTheft.gov, mandated to handle ID related cases. Experts recommend using the FTC guidelines for learning about ID and steps you should take when the incident occurs. TransUnion is another great organization you can reach out to about identity theft and with their communication lines open, you can rest assured about assistance.
When you suspect anything on your data, you should contact the relevant organizations such as IRS, insurance provider or banks to place your account on hold until all matters are resolved. You cannot afford to buy more time or even ignore these concerns because it could mean losses coming your way.
How will AI address Identity Theft?
The rise of artificial intelligence offers hope as the identity theft problem keeps rising with AI systems capable of detecting security flaws. The Deep Code technology from AI resolves this problem by enabling software developers to see errors and reduce overall costs. As such, the Deep Code technology checks bugs within a short time and recommends solutions in equal measure.As if this is not enough, Deep Code can learn about loopholes within computer programs and replicate the same solutions to multiple programs around the world.
Consequently, AI technology can attack these threats fast and reduce data leaks that have become costly for organizations. The idea of AI systems sifting through programs and confirming the identity of people is crucial in protecting from further damage. Biometric data is another development that analysts forecast will have a positive influence on safeguarding digital information with tools such as Identity Access Management (IAM) developing strong controls.
What does the future hold with Identity Theft?
From the examples discussed, it is clear that identity theft threatens individuals and businesses across the aisle. With identity theft increasing, we can only forecast future trends with uncertainty. Safeguarding yourself from identity theft comes down to knowledge about your personal information and keeping it safe from third parties. Make sure you keep checking your credit report on a consistent basis and reviewing your financial accounts. As companies channel resources to identity theft controls, remember that consumers matter the most and should always be on the lookout.