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Identity Theft & Internet Scams

Today’s technology allows us to connect around the world, to bank and shop online, and to control our televisions, homes and cars from our smartphones. With this added convenience comes an increased risk of identity theft and Internet scams.

Did You Know?

  • The total number of data breaches reported in 2018 decreased 23% from the total number of breaches reported in 2017, but the number of consumer records containing sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) exposed increased 126%. 1
  • Credit card fraud tops the list of identity theft reports in 2018. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 167,000 reports from people who said their information was misused on an existing account or to open a new credit card account. 2
  • Consumers reported $905 million in total fraud losses in 2017, a 21.6% increase over 2016. 3

Common Internet Scams

As technology continues to grow and change over time, cybercriminals will use more sophisticated techniques to exploit technology to steal your identity, personal information, and money. Protecting yourself online is very important. The FTC lists these as the top three kinds of threats reported in 2018:

  • Identity Theft is the illegal acquisition and use of someone else’s personal information to obtain money or credit. Signs of identity theft include bills for things you did not purchase, suspicious charges on your credit cards, or new accounts opened in your name that you did not authorize.
  • Imposter scams occur when you receive an email or call from a person claiming to be someone else. For example, an imposter may contact you from the Social Security Administration informing your that your Social Security number (SSN) has been suspended, in hopes you will reveal your SSN or pay to have it reactivated.
  • Debt Collection scams occur when criminals attempt to collect on a fraudulent debt. Signs the “debt collector” may be a scammer are requests to be paid by wire transfers or credit cards.

Simple Tips to Protect It

  • Double your login protection. Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) to ensure that the only person who has access to your account is you.
  • Shake up your password protocol. Consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach.
  • Be up to date. Keep your software updated and maintain your security settings to keeping your information safe by turning on automatic updates.

 Protect Yourself from Online Fraud

Stay Protected While Connected: The bottom line is that whenever you’re online, you’re vulnerable. If devices on your network are compromised for any reason, or if hackers break through an encrypted firewall, someone could be eavesdropping on you – even in your own home on encrypted Wi-Fi.

  • Practice safe web surfing
  • Avoid free Internet access with no encryption when trying to find Wi-Fi
  • If you do use public Wi-Fi, avoid sensitive activities that require passwords and credit cards. Use your personal hotspot, as it is often a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi.
  • Don’t reveal personal information to unknown sources
  • Type website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links.

Resources Available to You

If you ever find that you have become a victim of cybercrime, make sure to notify authorities to file a complaint. Also be sure to keep and record any evidence of the incident and its suspected source. The list below outlines the government organizations that you can file a complaint with if you are a victim of cybercrime.

FTC.gov: The FTC’s free, one-stop resource, www.IdentityTheft.gov can help you report and recover from identity theft. Report fraud to the FTC at ftc.gov/OnGuardOnline or www.ftc.gov/complaint

US-CERT.gov: Report computer or network vulnerabilities to US-CERT via the hotline: 1-888-282-0870 or www.us-cert.gov. Forward phishing emails or websites to US-CERT at phishing- report@us-cert.gov.

IC3.gov: If you are a victim of online crime, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.IC3.gov.

SSA.gov: If you believe someone is using your SSN, contact the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.


1Identity Theft Resource Center, “2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report”, 2018.

2Federal Trade Commission, “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2018”, 2019.

3Experian, “Identify Theft Statistics”, 2019.

4NICCS, "National Cybersecurity Awareness Month 2019 Toolkit", 2019