Feature Article
Mark Pribish
Risk of Cyber Security, ID Theft and Personal Privacy Continues to Worry Consumers
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

Last month I referenced Javelin Strategy & Research and Consumer Reports Magazine in writing how consumer and business ID Theft continues to increase in the United States.

This month I will share the latest ID Theft statistics and consumer findings from four recently-released research reports.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released its 2012 annual report of top consumer complaints on February 28 (read the report here) including the following highlights:

  • For the 12th year in a row, identity theft complaints topped the list
  • Nearly 25 percent of the identity theft complaints related to tax or wage-related fraud
  • The top 5 states for ID theft in order were Florida, Georgia, California, Arizona, and Texas
  • Children 19 and younger represent 8 percent of all victims
  • The mature market (50 years and older) represent 30 percent of ID Theft victims and the single largest demographic of ID Theft victims
  • Victims spend numerous hours straightening out their lives following an incident of identity theft
  • Online identity theft is popular, with a target demographic of individuals between 20-29 years of age, who are posting information online
  • Data breaches at organizations are happening more frequently
  • Phishing emails are at an all-time high
  • For military consumers, Identity Theft was the number one complaint category

Edelman Insights, the world's largest public relations firm released the results from its new privacy survey titled "Privacy & Security: The New Drivers of Brand, Reputation and Action" (read the survey here).

The survey identified the following consumer research:

  • There is a gap between consumer expectations of how a business is managing data security and privacy and what businesses are actually delivering
  • People care about the security of their personal information more than ever before
  • A majority of consumers are more concerned about data security and privacy than they were five years ago
  • Adults are most concerned about information held by businesses they use most frequently
  • Online shopping and banking, which require the sharing of financial information, are the most common online activities
  • Financial institutions and online retailers are not meeting the needs of their customers
  • A notable gap exists between the number of people who consider data security important in the finance and online retail industries and the number who actually trust them to protect personal information
  • Consumers report abstaining from frequent shopping or loyalty card programs and online banking to protect their personal information
  • One in five adults do not join a frequent shopping program and one in ten adults do not sign up for a loyalty card program with concerns about their personal information
  • In the wake of a data breach, individuals are even willing to abandon the companies they trust most

The annual 2012 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report (read the report here) focused on the cyber threat, corporate hacking and data breach events including:

  • Despite all the hype about sophisticated attack methods, 97% could have been stopped using fundamental precautions
  • In a vast majority of attacks (80%), hackers hit victims of opportunity rather than companies they sought out
    • In such cases, more than 85% of victim companies employed less than 1,000 employees and were mostly in the retail, hospitality and food services industries
  • Most of the targeted attacks last year were directed at large companies in the finance and insurance industries

Finally, according to the 2012 Ponemon Cost of Data Breach Report (read the report here), the cost per stolen record - data that identifies an individual whose information has been compromised in a data breach - declined from $214 per record in 2010 to $194 per record.

While a 10% drop in the cost of a data breach event is good news, I doubt very much that most businesses and organizations throughout the U.S. have budgeted for $194 per compromised record, whether that organization has 10, 100, 1000, or more employees and/or customers.

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 Central

Fake Parking Ticket + Real Virus = Identity Theft

If you happen to live in a big city, then you may well be aware that it can often be a real hassle to park a vehicle downtown. You have to find a place to park, then you have to pay to park, whether through a parking meter or by a timestamped ticket. In some instances, you may be able to have your parking ticket validated by a store owner if you were there to shop. But in other cases, you find yourself paying for the convenience.

Imagine now that you return to your vehicle to find a parking ticket placed on your windshield. The ticket merely states some "citation" that can be resolved by visiting a website addressed on the ticket. Visiting an online website sure beats traffic court. Another convenience. However, the ticket is fake, and the headaches may just be getting started.

How It Works:

According to a post at the Scambusters.org website (see the article here), clever thieves are posting fake parking tickets on windshields in the Grand Forks, ND area. Stating simple violations or some phony citation, the ticket holder is asked to visit a website to clear up the ticket. Once the visitor arrives at the website, they are informed that they need to download a toolbar to help process the transaction. The toolbar is actually a Trojan virus and the visitor's system is now infected and vulnerable to identity theft.

Your Defense:

This particular scam can certainly seem more legitimate than others since the incident takes place in a real setting and therefore seems more credible, as opposed to receiving a phishing email for something you did not initiate. However, if you use your head, you can avoid getting ripped off and having your information stolen.

Be sure to note the date, the time, and the location of the incident. Verify that you are in the parking lot legally by checking with the parking lot manager or property owner. If the property owner uses an outside source to issue tickets for parking violations, they'll be able to tell you who issued the ticket, and more importantly why. You can also take the ticket to local law enforcement and see if the ticket is real or not. If this particular ticket is a part of some scam, law enforcement will more than likely already be aware of it.

The best way to keep from being scammed is to certainly not download and install any piece of software from a website you are not familiar with, even if it means the inconvenience of driving somewhere else to pay the ticket in person. Making that trip would certainly be safer than downloading a virus that will steal any of your personal information and send it back to thieves. Be safe. Be smart. Keep your identity where it belongs; with you!

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