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Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance

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Social Security number

More Than 12 Million Identity Fraud Victims in 2012, study finds

Javelin Strategy & Research have released their 2013 Identity Fraud Report with some startling results the scariest being “one in four consumers who receive a data breach letter will become the victim of identity fraud.”

This means the days when a breached organisation would try to keep a breach quiet with the hope that it would go away have gone because the odds are far too high to ignore financial impacts that follow Identity Theft. 

This past year was one where there were both successes and setbacks for consumers, institutions and fraudsters,” said Jim Van Dyke, CEO of Javelin Strategy & Research, in a prepared statement. “Consumers and institutions are now starting to act as partners detecting and stopping fraud faster than ever before. But fraudsters are acting quicker than ever before and victimizing more consumers. Consumers must take data breach notifications more seriously and maintain vigilance to safeguard personal information, especially Social Security numbers

Key findings from the study include:

–  $21 billion was stolen in 2012. Higher than in recent years but considerably lower than the $47 billion in 2004

–  Almost 1 in 4 consumers who received a breach notification letter became a victim of identity fraud.

This underscores the need for consumers to take all notifications seriously. Not all breaches are created equal. The study found consumers who had their Social Security number compromised in a data breach were 5 times more likely to be a fraud victim than an average consumer

–  The stolen information was misused for a variety of fraud types, for example credit cards, loans and mobile phone bills and on average was misused for an average of 48 days during 2012 which is down from 55 days in 2011 and 95 days in 2010.

More than 50% of victims were actively detecting fraud using financial alerts, credit monitoring or identity protection services and by monitoring their account

–  15% of all fraud victims changed their online behavior and avoid smaller merchants

While credit card numbers remain the most popular item revealed in a data breach, in reality other information can be more useful to fraudsters. Personal information such as online banking login, username and password were compromised in 10% of incidents and 16% of incidents included Social Security numbers

It’s not just online fraud or data breaches. More than 1.5 million consumers were victims of familiar fraud, which is fraud when victims know the fraudster. Lower income consumers were more likely to be victims of familiar fraud. The information most likely to be taken via familiar fraud includes name, Social Security number, address and checking account numbers

Javelin have produced some guidance for consumers called the “Seven Safety Tips to Protect Consumers”

Javelin Strategy & Research recommends that consumers work in partnership with institutions to minimize their risk and impact of identity fraud by following a three-step approach: Prevention, Detection and Resolution™.

Prevention

1. Keep personal data private—Secure your personal and financial records behind a password or in a locked storage device whether at home, at work and on your mobile device. Familiar fraud is a serious issue with 12 percent of fraud victims knowing the perpetrator personally. Other ways to secure information include: not mailing checks to pay bills, shredding documents, monitoring your accounts weekly, and protecting your computer and mobile device with updated security software. Use a trusted and secure Internet connection (not a public Wi-Fi hotspot) when transmitting personal or financial information, and direct deposit payroll checks.

2. Look for security features—When paying online be sure you have a secure connection. Two ways you can denote a secure connection are to look for “https” and not just http at the start of the merchant’s web address or a bright green box and padlock graphic in the address bar of most browsers. Check for either one of these before entering personal or payment information.

3. Think before you share—Before providing any sensitive information, question who is asking for the information. Why do they need it? How is the information being used? Do not provide the information if you are unsure about the legitimacy of the request. Be careful when clicking on links that then take you to a page asking for personal information. If an organization asks you for your Social Security number to validate your identity, request another question.

Detection

4. Be Proactive—There are many different levels of identity theft protection and consumers should work in partnership with institutions on identity theft prevention. By setting up alerts that can be sent via e-mail and to a mobile device and monitoring accounts online at bank and credit card websites, consumers can take a more proactive role in detecting identity fraud and stopping misuse. In 2012, 50 percent of fraud was first detected by the victims.

5. Enlist others—There are a wide array of services available to consumers who want extra protection and peace of mind including payment transaction alerts, credit monitoring, credit report fraud alerts, credit freezes and database scanning. 3 out of every 5 identity fraud victims did not know the source of their fraud, but many services will now provide alerts directly to a consumer’s smartphone. Some services can be obtained for a fee and others at no cost to the consumers who are victims of a data breach. These services can monitor credit reports, public records and online activity for signs of fraudulent use of personal information.

Resolution

6. Take any data breach notification seriously—If you receive a data breach notification, take it very seriously as you are at a much higher risk according to the 2013 Identity Fraud Report. If you receive an offer from your financial institution or retailer for a free monitoring service after a breach, you should take advantage of the offer, closely monitor your accounts and put a fraud alert on your credit report.

7. Don’t wait. Report problems immediately—If you suspect or uncover fraud, contact your bank, credit union, wireless provider or protection services provider to take advantage of resolution services, loss protections and methods to secure your accounts. A fast response can enhance the likelihood that losses are reduced, and law enforcement can pursue fraudsters so they experience consequences for their actions.

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Consumers express their opinions of Data Breach Notifications

Ponemon Institute have released an Experian® Data Breach Resolution sponsored survey into what consumer think about Data Breach Notifications, titled 2012 Consumer Study on Data Breach Notifications.

I have made a summary of the survey below.

Consumers in the Ponemon and Experian joint study believe data breach notification is important under certain conditions

  • 85% believe notification about data breach and the loss or theft of their personal information is relevant to them
  • 57% say that they want to be informed only if the organization is certain that they are at risk
  • 58% say that if they remembered the notification it failed to explain all the facts and “sugar coated” the message

The trustworthiness of an organization is linked to the efforts it makes to protect personal information

  • 83% of respondents believe organizations that fail to protect their personal information are untrustworthy
  • 82% believe the privacy and security of their personal information is important

Following a data breach, consumers believe organizations have obligations to provide compensation and protect them from identity theft

  • 63% say organizations should be obligated to compensate data breach victims with cash, their products or services
  • 59% believe a data breach notification means there is a high probability they will become an identity theft victim. As a result, 58% say the organization has an obligation to provide identity protection services and 55% say they should provide credit-monitoring services.

Most consumers recall receiving a form letter and more than one notification

  • 65% of consumers say they have received at least one notification
  • 35% recall receiving at least three In 2005, 91% said they received only one
  • 62% of consumers say the notification was a form letter 19% who say it was a personal letter.

Most consumers do not believe the organizations that sent them notifications did a good job in communicating and handling the data breach

  • 72% of consumers were disappointed in the way the notification was handled
  • 28% say the organization did a good job in communicating and handling the data breach

A key reason for the disappointment is respondents’ belief that the notification did not increase their understanding about the data breach. In fact, since 2005 respondents are more in the dark about what happened with their data.

  • 41% of respondent say their data was most likely stolen
  • 37% say they have no idea what the data breach incident was about
  • This is an increase from 37% in 2005 who said their data was most likely stolen and 28% of consumers who said they had no idea what the data breach incident was about
  • 51% say their customer or consumer information was stolen
  • 21% who say it was their financial information such as credit card/debit card account numbers
  • In 2005 86% said it was their customer or consumer information 10% said it was employee records
  • 44% of consumers do not know the specific data that was lost or stolen which makes it more difficult for them to take steps to protect themselves from further harm. Those who do know say the following were most likely to have been lost or stolen: name, credit card or bank payment information and Social Security number.

Personal data respondents worry most about if lost or stolen

  • 48% Email address
  • 48% Health plan provider account number
  • 48% Taxpayer ID number/Employer ID number
  • 52% Telephone or mobile number
  • 53% Driver’s license number
  • 57% Credit or payment history
  • 65% Credit card or bank payment information
  • 65% Prescriptions
  • 68% Social media accounts/handles
  • 89% Social Security number
  • 92% Password/PIN

Consumers say key facts about the breach are missing in most communications. 67% say the notification did not provide enough details about data breach.

The majority of consumers (51%) would like to have more information about how the organization will protect them to minimize the harm to them and their family. This is consistent with the 2005 study.

How the data breach may affect them and their family decreased significantly from 40% of respondents in 2005 to 24% this year. Identity protection or credit monitoring services and steps to take to protect their personal information were included for the first time in this year’s study and were significantly lower than the first choice about protections to minimize the possible negative consequences of a data breach.

Notification letters are increasingly perceived to be junk mail, according to many consumers

  • 36% say they thought the data breach notification letter looked like junk mail This is an increase from 15% in 2005
  • 34% say it was an important communication, this is a significant decrease from 51% in 2005

If they thought it looked like junk mail

  • 63% of respondents recommend that the notification provide the names of individuals they can contact if they have questions or concerns
  • 54% say the notification should be personalized
  • 50% suggest making a phone call or email alerting them to the notification

Customer loyalty is at risk following notification. In response to being notified by an organization

  • 15% say they will terminate their relationship
  • 39% say they will consider ending the relationship
  • 35% say their relationship and loyalty is dependent upon the organization not having another data breach

Only a small percentage of respondents in both studies do not blame the organization reporting the data breach. Further, respondents’ reactions to a breach have not changed significantly in the past seven years.

As in the previous finding, data breaches diminish customer loyalty and trust and this has not changed much since 2005. The study reveals that 62% say the notification decreased their trust and confidence in the organization Only 30% say it had no affect on their trust and confidence.

Since 2005, data breach notifications have not become easier to understand with 61% of consumers have problems understanding the notification An increase from 52% in 2005.

The biggest improvements that could be made would be to explain the risks or harms that they are most likely to experience as a result of the breach and to disclose all the facts.

The believability of data breach notifications has declined

  • In 2005, 61% say the message was believable
  • This has decreased to 55% in 2012

Scepticism about the content of the notification has increased since 2005. Of the 45% who say it was not believable, 51% say the message did not tell them about the harms or risks they will likely experience. This is an increase from 37% who believed this in 2005. In addition, perceptions that the organization is hiding key facts about the data breach have increased from 37% to 44%,

Respondents are just as worried today as they were in 2005 about the security of their personal information

  • 63% are more worried about the security of their personal information
  • 44% say they have had to spend time resolving problems as a result of the breach
  • Despite concerns about identity theft and other harms, almost half (49%) are doing nothing to protect themselves

Consumers are, however, more cautious about sharing personal information with the organization that had the breach (45%) and 35% are more cautious about sharing information with all organizations.

Ponemon’s Conclusion

Consumers in our study believe the privacy and security of their personal information is important. Organizations that do not provide adequate safeguards are considered untrustworthy. Further, typical responses to a data breach notification are to immediately discontinue the relationship with the organization that had the breach, to consider discontinuing the relationship or to continue the relationship only as long as another breach does not occur.

One of the goals of this research is to determine if consumers’ perceptions about data breach notification have changed since 2005 when we conducted the first study about this topic. Based on the findings, improvements need to be made to both how the notifications are delivered and the information that is communicated to victims of the data breach.

These include

  • Making the notification easier to understand by making it shorter with less legalese
  • Eliminating the perception that the notification is junk mail by providing names that can be contacted if there are questions or concerns, personalizing the message and making a phone call or sending an email in advance of sending the notification
  • Providing specifics about the incident that explain the cause of the breach and the type of data that was lost or stolen so the victim understands what the data breach is all about
  • Assuring the victims that the organization will take steps to protect them from identity theft and other negative consequences

Most of the consumers who responded to the survey cannot recall if they received notification. We conclude that despite their concern about privacy and security, consumers are not paying attention to the notices. They also are not being proactive about preventing identity theft following notification. Instead, they believe it is the obligation of the organization to fully explain the potential harms they are likely to experience and to take steps to reduce the risk of identity theft.

In many instances, when organizations have a data breach the notification process is a matter of sending out a form letter. As shown in this study, communicating the circumstances of the data breach can influence customer loyalty, trustworthiness and reputation. Resources spent on personalizing the message, offering assistance to reduce the likelihood of identity theft and future harms and providing specific information about the incident may help organizations avoid the risk of losing customer trust and loyalty in the aftermath of the data breach.

Read the full report by registering here.

With Breach Notifications to be mandatory in the not so distant future it would be worth reading my review of the proposed European Data Protection Act here.

9 steps to take if your credit card data is hacked

Credit card
Image via Wikipedia

Lisa Bertagnoli on Creditcards.com has produced a list of the 9 things you should do if your credit card is hacked/stolen/cloned or otherwise dealt with in a criminal fashion.

As a checklist it contains some excellent advice, not just for credit card security but for all your data.

1. Make sure there’s really been a breach. “When you get the scary communication, make sure it’s legitimate,” says Steven Weisman, a Boston-based attorney and author of “The Truth About Avoiding Scams.” “People get phony security notifications and that can turn into identity theft,” he says. His advice: Don’t trust email, the U.S. mail or even a phone call. Call your bank yourself to confirm a breach.

2. Find out exactly what information was stolen. “There’s a big difference between a credit card and checking account,” says Jeremy Miller, director of operations for Kroll’s Fraud Solutions, a division of Kroll Inc., a Nashville-based security company. With a credit card account, consumers are responsible (in most states) for only $50 of unauthorized charges. However, most banks will forgive that, particularly if the breach is their fault. “But a checking account is different — you might get your account cleaned out,” Miller says.3. Find out what your bank will do. In late June, thieves breached CitiGroup’s database, accessing 360,000 records and stealing a total of $2.7 million from 3,600 credit card holders. The bank agreed to compensate the cardholders. Other banks may offer a free credit monitoring service that alerts customers about activity over a certain dollar amount. Use them, advises Ed Bellis, CEO of HoneyApps, a Chicago-based data security firm.

3. Find out what your bank will do. In late June, thieves breached CitiGroup’s database, accessing 360,000 records and stealing a total of $2.7 million from 3,600 credit card holders. The bank agreed to compensate the cardholders. Other banks may offer a free credit monitoring service that alerts customers about activity over a certain dollar amount. Use them, advises Ed Bellis, CEO of HoneyApps, a Chicago-based data security firm.

“The best thing consumers can do is have alerts and triggers on their credit card and bank statements,” Ed Bellis says.

Such alerts will tip you off to fraudulent activity before it spins into major trouble. Keep in mind that the free alert offer will expire; find out when so you don’t end up paying an automatic monthly fee.

4. Cancel your cards. If the bank didn’t do so automatically after the breach, do it yourself. Cancel your credit cards and debit cards that were issued by the institution that suffered the breach. Be sure to notify companies that have your card on file for automatic monthly fees, say for website hosting or a newspaper subscription, that your card was cancelled.

5. Reset your passwords, and make them challenging. Weisman  says that “123456” and “password” are the most common passwords: Easy for good guys to remember, easy for bad guys to steal with.  Avoid choosing easily findable information, such as your birthday or street address. Choose something more obscure, and make the password a mix of letters and numbers. For extra security, create a different password for each account. Just make sure to write them down and store them in a safe place, such as a home lockbox.

6. Monitor credit card statements closely. Bellis says thieves love to test the viability of accounts with a small purchase, say a 99% iTunes download. Review every statement, each purchase, each charge,  to make sure you or a household member with access to your card made that purchase. If you see an unauthorized charge, report it to the card issuer immediately.

7. Pull your credit reports. Federal law requires the three main credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, to give you a free credit report if your account information has been stolen. Review each report carefully for errors or fraudulent activity; if you find any, go to the reporting institution and fix them. If there’s a chance your Social Security number has been stolen, put a security freeze on your files. At minimum, issue a fraud alert, suggests Sheila Adkins, spokeswoman for the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Arlington, Va.

8. Beware of email asking for personal, financial or account information.

“Legitimate companies you rely on for your online shopping, financial needs and college tests will not request this information, they already have it,” Adkins says.

If you want to communicate with an online company, find its website and use that website’s contact information.

9. Tighten up your own security. This won’t keep your data safe if someone hacks into your some other company’s database, but it’s a smart move anyway. Update your home computer’s security. Don’t click on links sent by strangers; such links can contain invisible malware that will monitor your computers’ keystrokes and thus steal passwords. If you bank online, dedicate a browser to online banking, and use it for nothing else. “You have to have data and information discipline,” says Daniel Mohan, president and chief operating officer of ID Watchdog, a Denver-based data monitoring, detection and resolution firm.

The original article is here.

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How to Contact the Credit Reporting Agencies to Place a Fraud Alert

The National Insurance numbercard issued by th...
Image via Wikipedia

The Identity Theft Resources Centre has some great advice on how and what to do when contacting a Credit Reporting Agency:

  • Please use the report fraud phone numbers from each credit reporting agency to place a fraud alert on your credit report. We recommend that you call all three credit reporting agencies because they may have different information that might cause the fraud alert to be denied.
  • These will be automated systems, please listen for the prompt for the fraud alert.
  • The automated system will ask identifying questions, such as your name, Social Security Number (US), National Insurance Number (UK), address number, and date of birth. This is to verify your identity.
  • If you are successful in placing the fraud alert on your credit report, you will receive a confirmation number immediately or you will receive a notification letter by mail within the next 10 to 14 business days.
  • On your notification letter, there will be a telephone number to request a free copy of your credit report. Please contact theCRA’s immediately to obtain these reports.
  • You are not successful in placing the fraud alert if the automated system asks for you to write to them with documentation. This is common for victims of identity theft. The credit reporting agencies usually require a copy of a current utility bill, copy of your current driver’s license or a state ID, and a letter with your full name, Social Security Number and date of birth, requesting a fraud alert be placed. You will also want to request your free credit report in the letter.

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