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10/27/2009
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Five Vulnerabilities That Lead To Identity Theft

ID theft security vendor offers advice on five key areas that end users should watch

Why do so many users suffer from identity theft? One company that has been studying the problem has identified five key sore spots that often lead to problems, no matter which users are involved.

In conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, Intersections has identified the following top five vulnerabilities:

1. Pre-established patterns of behavior and complacency. "We have established many habits or lifestyles that many of us are not likely to change, including giving away our personal information when it's not required or necessary," Intersections says. "We should be smarter and question those asking for our personal information....do they really need it? The younger generation can slow down the data distribution channels by asking the same questions and becoming more educated about how and who they share their personal information with."

2. Proliferation of social networks. "With the increasing use of Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networking applications, consumers are unknowingly setting themselves up for identity fraud. For example, by simply posting your pet's name on your tweet, you could be giving hints about your account passwords and even allowing someone else to 'reset' your password and gain access to your personal email, banking or other online accounts," Intersections observes.

3. Computer security and Internet scams. "Online crime is up nearly 600 percent this year, according to the Anti Phishing Working Group (APWG). Criminals are increasingly sending emails that look as though they come from a legitimate company -- your bank, the IRS, the Census Bureau -- that entice you to click on a website or call a phone number to update your account information, claim a prize, claim a refund, or to activate a benefit. Encrypting and safeguarding portable devices and documents is also critical," Intersections says. 4. Online and offline transactions and the impact of global supply chains. "According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, since January 2005, more than 339 million records have been compromised due to security breaches, so chances are your personal information is already out there," Intersections states. "Even if you have not ventured into the digital world, the average adult still has thousands of pieces of data associated with their shopping habits, medical records, employment, family status, mortgages, etc. that can't be erased. You have no control over how far and wide your personal information can spread."

5. Healthcare. "Despite tough federal regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), medical providers and insurance providers are still fertile territory for identity thieves," Intersections says. "And with the move to electronic health records and increasing data breaches, privacy concerns are a serious consideration. From doctors making a copy of your driver's license or medical insurance card to erroneous information in your medical records, there are a myriad of ways for your identity to be exposed in the course of treatment."

Intersections is launching a campaign, called "It's OK to trust again," this month that emphasizes safe computing among consumers.

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