How the spike in identity theft threatens everyone and can wipe out investments
By Gaetano DiNardi, Vice President of Growth, Aura
It’s easy to think it won’t happen to you – until it’s too late. Identity theft can take place in an instant, wreaking havoc on your life and investments, some of which may never be recovered. And the threat of that happening has increased dramatically during the pandemic.
A survey reveals that nearly half of the country – 47% of consumers – experienced identity theft between 2019 and 2020. The Federal Trade Commission found a whopping 73% increase from 2019 to 2020. Consumers lost approximately $56 billion.
Although final figures are not yet available for 2021, the Identity Theft Research Center (ITRC) found an increase in incidents during the year and predicted that losses would increase further.
Often, identity theft occurs through corporate data breaches. In these cases, hackers can obtain people’s passwords for the site they have hacked. Unfortunately, they can then easily guess the passwords these same people use for all sorts of other sites. According to a survey, 70% of adults use the same password for more than one thing. The distribution of this figure is even more troubling: 24% say they use the same password for more things, and 21% said they use the same password for all.
But even outside of data breaches, there are other ways malicious actors can gain access to your information. No matter how tech-savvy you think you are, risks abound. Take it from me. I learned it the hard way.
How I lost thousands
I was pickedpocketed in Mexico. The thieves moved so quickly that they grabbed my phone right after I put it in my pocket – and before it was locked. (I had it set to lock after five minutes – my first mistake.)
Even then, I thought, other layers of protection should have prevented them from accessing my information. I had SMS-based two-factor authentication, backup recovery email, and Find My iPhone.
But identity thieves know what they are doing. They managed to circumvent all these obstacles. Within three hours they blocked my access to my Gmail, Apple ID and Yahoo accounts. They copied and downloaded my entire Google Drive. They attempted to withdraw funds from my bank accounts.
Fortunately, the banks thwarted them. But the thieves managed to steal $12,000 I had from a cryptocurrency account. They transferred Ethereum from my account to their own private hardware wallet. Once it happened, it was gone for good, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Losses are greater than many realize
While anyone can fall victim to identity theft, those with more money are more likely to fall victim to it. The research “shows that cybercriminals stole the identities of 6.4% of the general public, but that number jumped to 8.1% for those wealthy $1 million or more,” Silicon Valley Bank reported. . “Wealthy people are 43% more likely to be victims of identity theft, as described in a joint study by Experian and the Department of Justice.”
It’s not just the immediate losses that can drain you financially. Resolving issues that arise from identity theft can take a huge amount of time – which for many people is also money. At Aura, our survey found that it takes an average of 12-25 business days to resolve identity theft. That’s a lot of lost productivity.
The emotional fallout also has consequences. I went through panic, fear, anxiety, shock and more – a molotov cocktail of distress. All of this can decrease the productivity of people at work. Our survey revealed that 29% of workers feel a loss of interest in their work as a result of identity theft.
A good defense is the best offense
Often people don’t even know their identity has been stolen. At Aura, we provide a list of steps people can take to find out if this has happened to them, whether through data breaches, physical theft (like in my case), or phishing scams. We also explain what to do if you have been the victim of identity theft.
As Forbes recently noted, “Security is a moving target, and the creativity and new patterns that keep emerging are constantly changing.” Fighting cybercriminals requires vigilance. By being proactive, you can reduce the chances of this happening to you.
–Gaetano Di Nardi is Vice President of Growth at Will have
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.