BBB offers tips on protecting data, identity

E-T staff report
Better Business Bureau logo

Data Privacy Day (Jan. 28) and Identity Theft Awareness Week (Feb. 1-5) are annual efforts aimed at eliminating fraud through marketplace safety practices.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 20% of all reports received by the agency in 2019 addressed identity theft, and data from Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker shows more than $1 million were lost to identity theft in the U.S. last year, with 14% of Scam Tracker submissions coming from Texas consumers, according to a news release from the BBB.

With the FTC and BBB seeing an increase in reports of identity theft and financial loss, it is important for consumers to be aware of potential risks.

Scammers may attempt to reach you through email or fraudulent websites, but phone calls are the most common method used in identity theft. About 70% of Texans that reported identity theft to BBB in 2020 were contacted over the phone.

Many tactics can be used to steal someone’s identity. You may encounter a phishing scam that collects your personal data, a government imposter insisting they need your Medicare number or a thief that makes purchases using your stolen financial information.

One Texas victim lost more than $16,000 to a scammer who had accessed their Social Security number.

“I received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me that my benefits would be automatically deposited into my account," reads the BBB complaint. "I did not sign up for these benefits, someone else did. At least after talking to the Social Security office payments stopped going to the scammer. But it continues to be a nightmare.”

Data privacy and fraud prevention go hand in hand. Protect your identity using these tips from your Better Business Bureau.

• Know which data is valuable. Scammers can easily steal your identity using your Social Security number or credit card information, but they can also use identifiers such as your home address, email or answers to common security questions such as your mother’s maiden name. Never share this data online, only disclose it to trusted individuals when necessary.

• Take precautions. Regularly checking your credit report and bank statements can help you recognize suspicious activity early and quickly shut down fraud. You can also take preventative measures to protect your digital data by creating strong passwords and utilizing multifactor authentication.

• Stay updated. Software updates include the latest, and most effective, security features. These features offer extra protection against scammers trying to break into your devices and any viruses they leave behind, which can put you at further risk for identity theft in the future.

For more tips on keeping your identity secure, visit us at BBB.org. To access your free credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports.