Protect your Information from Identity Thieves
Over the last few years, there has been a noticeable increase in reported cases of identity theft. An identity theft occurs when a criminal pretends to be someone else by assuming that person's identity, commonly for financial gain. In today’s interconnected world, these cases of identity theft are also commonly associated with attacks and breaches of information systems across all sectors of our economy.
This year the Identity Theft Resource Center is reporting a 27.5% increase in data breaches and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that identity theft is the number one consumer complaint. These identity thefts range from applying for credit cards in your name, opening up lines of credits with banks, and submitting fraudulent tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since this is tax season, victims may discover they have been targeted by identity thieves when they try to file their taxes, only to discover someone else has already done so.
CWU’s security team is doing their part in securing your confidential information. We constantly monitor the network and scrutinize activities that may indicate unauthorized access to our systems. One of the most crucial information security strategies, however, is empowering students, faculty, and staff to protect themselves! While you can never completely eliminate the risk of identity theft, there are several steps you can take to significantly reduce the risk:
- An unexpected email or phone call claiming to be from the IRS is always a scam. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive a scam email or phone call claiming to be from the IRS, forward it to email@example.com or call the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
- Mix letters, numbers, and symbols in the passwords for accounts on your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.
- Don't overshare on social media sites. If you post too much information about yourself, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information.
- To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the Internet. A “padlock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
- Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
- Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.
- Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
- Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.
- Consider opting out of prescreened offers of credit and insurance by mail. You can opt out for 5 years or permanently. To opt out, call 1-888-567-8688 or go to optoutprescreen.com. The 3 nationwide credit reporting companies operate the phone number and website.
In the end, we all share a responsibility to safeguard the confidential information stored on our systems. If you see something, say something.
Chief Information Officer