As data breaches become fact of life, raise your awareness of problems, solutions

Verbal passwords can help protect against identity theft

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Data breach­es have become part of every­day life. If you or the com­pa­ny you work for haven’t been a vic­tim of data theft or out­right fraud, the expe­ri­ence very like­ly lies in your future.

News of high-pro­file data breach­es has become like white noise. Yet the effects of becom­ing a vic­tim of iden­ti­ty theft are tan­gi­ble and can be pro­found. I recent­ly sat down with Maria Valen­zuela, senior inves­ti­ga­tor at Cyber­Scout, whose job is to help indi­vid­ual vic­tims recov­er from iden­ti­ty theft and cyber fraud. (Full dis­clo­sure: Cyber­Scout under­writes Third­Cer­tain­ty.) Here are a few key takeaways:

Account takeovers are on the rise. Com­pro­mised infor­ma­tion is being used by iden­ti­ty thieves to assume fake iden­ti­ties in order to take over vic­tims’ cred­it cards and check­ing accounts. Through data breach­es, thieves can obtain your name, address, Social Secu­ri­ty num­ber, date of birth and even your account num­ber. They can then con­tact your bank by phone and use the stolen infor­ma­tion to prove their fake identity.

Maria Valen­zuela, Cyber­Scout senior investigator

Sep­a­rate­ly, they are able to obtain fake IDs and even have a card sent out to an address. From there, it is an easy step to trans­fer the funds, apply for new cards, and even add them­selves as an autho­rized user.

Tar­gets are being cher­ry picked. Thieves aren’t just going after any old accounts with this infor­ma­tion. They are focus­ing on estab­lished accounts with high lines of cred­it. For exam­ple, if you have a Bank of Amer­i­ca account that has been opened for over a decade with a bal­ance of $10,000, thieves are going to tar­get you over some­one with an account that has only been open for a year that con­tains $2,000.

Bank fraud is becom­ing increas­ing­ly focused on tak­ing over exist­ing accounts because banks have become stricter when it comes to new­ly opened ones. With a new­ly opened account, banks can and will block the activ­i­ty imme­di­ate­ly. Estab­lished accounts already are approved and have an approved line of cred­it. They can use those accounts with­out restrictions.

Pro­tect your­self with a ver­bal pass­word. Pre­vent account takeover attempts by estab­lish­ing ver­bal pass­words. A ver­bal pass­word is a spe­cif­ic secu­ri­ty ques­tion and answer that some­one will not be able to obtain from your cred­it report, pub­lic records or your social media accounts. Think your favorite hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion or favorite col­or rather than your mother’s maid­en name. Even if some­one calls up with all of your infor­ma­tion in hand, they will still need your ver­bal pass­word to access your account.

For a deep­er dive, please view the accom­pa­ny­ing video.