Mark Pribish

4 Personal Privacy Resolutions to Protect Yourself from ID Theft

By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

If you're like me, the first month of every New Year brings out the best intentions in all of us.

Every year, I take inventory of the past 12 months, plan how I'm going to better my life and then charge forward with some ironclad New Year's resolutions.

No matter how hard I try, however, a few of my resolutions from last year always seem to end up on this year's list.

For most of us, New Year's resolutions focus on one or all of the following: personal relationships, physical fitness, professional development and/or personal finances.

As I have learned over the years, it's important to determine which changes you would like to make first and then prioritize the others so that you can have the best chance for success in 2019. Trying to act on all your new goals at once will leave you overwhelmed and in some cases, floundering on the best of intentions.

If protecting your personal privacy and online identity in 2019 is on your resolution list, then it's time to focus on how phishing, social engineering, social media, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to put you at risk of identity theft.

New Year's Resolutions

To help you with your privacy concerns, I have listed below four resolutions to consider in 2019:

  • Social Media: you should reconsider the data you share on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and even LinkedIn — as all five of these social media leaders have experienced one or more data breach events. Your resolution should be to stop using social media altogether, take a break from it, or to reduce how much time you spend on it.
  • Password Management: using new and strong passwords are one of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft. A major weakness in using passwords is that there are always one or two basic passwords that are weak — and might even be used for multiple accounts, putting you at risk. Your resolution should be to use a password manager that can help create new and strong passwords along with scanning existing passwords to flag reused and weak passwords.
  • Terms & Conditions: whenever I speak on the topics of cybersecurity, data breach, identity theft and personal privacy — I always ask the audience "how many of you" have read the terms and conditions of your social media accounts or apps on your smart phones? The response is always zero. Your resolution should be to read the terms and conditions of all new and current accounts (and yes, I said it — "current accounts") to help you understand the type of personal information that is being collected, used and sold for marketing purposes.
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN): VPN software scrambles your IP address, encrypts data sent between your computer and the sites you visit, and masks your true location and service provider. This is important if you use public Wi-Fi. Your resolution to use a VPN will prevent hackers from seeing your traffic and potentially scraping sensitive information such as financial details.

So whether it is hacking or the insider threat that is the cause of a data breach event affecting you, you can still minimize your risk of identity theft in 2019 by limiting your social media, using a password manager, reading the terms and conditions, and using VPN software.

After all, this is one resolution you will be happy to have kept.


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.


Scam Alert: New Facebook Ads for Phony Product Fool Shoppers

By Better Business Bureau. October 10, 2018.

BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous complaints from shoppers fooled by ads promoting a hair straightener called Trendy Iron. Consumers pay for the product, but it never arrives.

How the Scam Works:

You are scrolling through social media and see an ad in your feed. This new straightening iron claims to produce amazing results. The ad features convincing photo images of women styling their hair with the new product. It looks great!

You click on the ad and purchase the Trendy Iron. Everything seems normal at first. You receive an email confirming your purchase and guaranteeing a shipping date. But that day comes and goes. When you check the website, there's no way to reach the company. In other similar cases, the site is no longer even active.

Trendy Iron is not the only phony product being promoted on social media. Advertisements for clothes, cosmetics, supplements, toys, and even pets (BBB.org/PuppyScam) are all common. Online scams are the riskiest of all scams, with a median loss of $100, according to BBB's Scam Risk Report (BBB.org/RiskReport).

Protect Yourself from an Online Shopping Scam

Facebook, which owns Instagram, reviews its ads for content. But it does not evaluate the businesses behind those ads.

  • Before buying online, confirm the site has real contact information. Make sure the seller has a working phone number and address on the website, so you can contact them in case of problems.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, there's probably something wrong. Be wary if the item is selling for significantly lower than what you've seen elsewhere.
  • Do your research. Before making a purchase, be sure to check for a secure site (look for HTTPS in the domain) and read BBB Business Reviews at BBB.org.

For More Information

To learn more about scams, go to BBB.org/ScamTips. If you've been targeted by this scam, help others avoid the same problem by reporting your experience at BBB.org/ScamTracker.

BBB of the Upstate (South Carolina) contributed to this alert.

NOTE: Facebook is a BBB Accredited Businesses.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/scamtracker). To protect yourself from all kinds of scams, visit the BBB Scam Tips page (BBB.org/scamtips).

Stay up on the latest scams by subscribing to BBB Scam Alerts emails. BBB Serving Central Virginia contributed to this report.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today!