The cost of identity theft is at an all-time high. The latest figures from the Federal Trade Commission indicated that although the number of consumer complaints about fraud dropped in 2017, people reported losing $905 million overall — $63 million more than they did in 2016. Investing in a couple of personal security devices could reduce one’s risk of falling victim to identity theft. Gadgets such as security wearables, Wi-Fi encryption tools, home security cameras and even low-tech roller stamps could provide an extra layer of protection.
Some contactless credit cards have a short-range wireless technology called radio-frequency identification (RFID) that lets customers pay for items simply by tapping a card against a reader. The same technology exists in U.S. passports and a variety of devices for automatically paying for highway tolls. Using a gadget called an RFID skimmer, a hacker could skim the information from an RFID-enabled credit card just by deftly passing over an unsuspecting person’s purse or back pocket. An entire industry has exploded around personal security devices, such as bags, wallets and credit card sleeves that block RFID skimmers. These gadgets are generally not expensive and may give the buyer some extra peace of mind.
However, before purchasing such gear, note that the risk of someone stealing credit card information this way is low, according to NPR. Most credit cards issued in the U.S. are not contactless, but instead have computers chips that require the card be inserted into a machine and used in combination with a PIN. And although passports do use RFID technology, the U.S. Department of State said that “The RFID technology embedded in documents will not include any personally identifying information; only a unique number that can be associated with a record stored in a secure government database will be transmitted.” In short, purchasing security wearables that block RFID skimmers may only be worth it for those who own contactless credit cards.
As more smartphones and their corresponding apps incorporate fingerprint recognition to authenticate consumer transactions, businesses will begin to do the same. According to new research from Gartner, 70 percent of companies will rely on biometric authentication via a smartphone app to access sensitive information at work, reported Information Age. At least five different laptops already come with fingerprint readers embedded, according to a 2019 review from Best World. For laptops that lack biometrics, an actual lock and security cable might offer the best protection. The Baltimore Sun reviewed five of these locks in 2019, which range in price from about $15 to $75.
Home Security Cameras
Identity theft is not merely for computer hackers. Old-fashioned home break-ins can put personal information — including passports, birth certificates, bank statements and other financially sensitive records — at risk. A home security camera, particularly one connected to a phone app, can make criminals think twice. Systems from Ring and Nest, for instance, have built-in floodlights, night color vision and a siren; they also record video in high-def and are weather-proofed. Both can be controlled by Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa and allow users to see, hear and speak to visitors through a mobile app.
Wi-Fi Data Encryption Tools
According to U.S. census data, 8 million people work from home, as reported by Quartz. For telecommuters, “working from home” may actually mean working from a hotel, café or library and using public Wi-Fi. That makes them vulnerable to cybercriminals who can easily hack into public network connections that are not password-protected. Wi-Fi security encryption software, which is more of a tool than a device, lets internet users work securely anywhere. Programs such as Hotspot Shield, Wi-Fi Protector and Comodo, for instance, encrypt all information sent and received and keep visits to any website anonymous. Fees for such a service as are a low as $2.99 per month, depending on the contract.
ID Roller Stamp
There comes a day in everybody’s life when it’s time to throw out sensitive paperwork, like old bank statements, paid-off loans, ancient tax forms and other outdated financial information. Many people use paper shredders to destroy such documents and keep them out of the hands of dumpster diving thieves. But ID roller stamps work just as well — and perhaps better, since they blot out the sensitive information completely. The rollers contain black ink and are designed to cover wide swaths of print with an opaque pattern. Products from ExcelMark, Vantamo, Guard Your ID and Lionergy do the job well for between $10 and $20, according to Mashable.
Of course, some of the best ways to protect a person’s identity online don’t necessarily require personal security devices — just some common sense. A strong password, a password-protected phone, a healthy level of skepticism about offers that sound too good to be true and the ability to resist downloading tantalizing images or documents from unfamiliar email contacts can go a long way, reported PC Mag. The publication also recommends that consumers request a free credit report at least once per year and sign up for the free, ad-supported Credit Karma service, which keeps track of credit scores. These helpful tips, in addition to personal security devices that work best for your lifestyle, could keep data and identity secure.