How safe is my identity? What are the latest threats? How do I protect myself?

The 2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming the New Fraud Frontier, released by Javelin Strategy & Research reports that in 2011 identity fraud increased by 13 percent. More than 11.6 million adults became a victim of identity fraud in the United States, while the dollar amount stolen held steady.

Identity theft occurs when someone takes your personally identifiable information (PII), and misuses it, abuses it, and adapts it to his or her own life, often for financial gain.

From the report:

  • Approximately 1.4 million more adults were victimized by identity fraud in 2011, compared to 2010.
  • One of the key factors potentially contributing to the increase in incidents was the significant rise in data breaches. The survey found 15 percent of Americans, or about 36 million people, were notified of a data breach in 2011. Consumers receiving a data breach notification were 9.5 times more likely to become a victim of identify fraud.
  • Javelin examined social media and mobile phone behaviors and identified certain social and mobile behaviors that had higher incidence rates of fraud than all consumers. LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook users had the highest incidence of fraud.
  • Consumers are still sharing a significant amount of personal information frequently used to authenticate a consumer’s identity
  • 68 percent of people with public social media profiles shared their birthday information (with 45 percent sharing month, date and year); 63 percent shared their high school name; 18 percent shared their phone number; and 12 percent shared their pet’s name—all are prime examples of personal information
  • Those with public profiles (those visible to everyone) were more likely to expose this personal information
  • Seven percent of smartphone owners were victims of identity fraud. 32 percent of smartphone owners do not update to a new operating system when it becomes available; 62 percent do not use a password on their home screen—enabling anyone to access their information if the phone is lost
  • 67 percent increase in the number of Americans impacted by data breaches compared to 2010

Protect yourself:

Lock down your PC with antivirus, antispyware and antiphishing. Update your computers operating systems critical security patches.

Keep social media professional. Once you start sharing every aspect of your life online, you begin to give away some answers to knowledge based questions to reset account passwords.

Watch your accounts closely. Look at your statements online weekly for unauthorized activity. Report fraud immediately.

Get identity theft protection and/or a credit freeze.

Robert Siciliano, personal security expert contributor to Just Ask Gemalto. Disclosures

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