California News Service
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A new survey shows many Californians leave themselves open to identity theft by failing to take basic precautions.
Researchers from AARP California found that almost half of adults re-use the same password across multiple sites, when instead they could use a free program that generates random passwords. Brett Johnson, a reformed cyber-criminal turned security consultant, also suggested everyone put a security freeze on their account with the “big three” credit agencies so that no one can pull their credit report without permission.
“Put a freeze on your account, that way a criminal cannot access your credit report, set up new accounts, order replacement cards, commit all types of crime, using your name,” Johnson said.
Johnson noted that kids are now the number-one victim group of identity theft, so it’s a good idea to freeze their credit reports as well.
Experts also warn of so-called phishing attacks, which are unsolicited requests to update your account information. These emails may look like they’re coming from a site you use, but are really attempts to get your personal information.
Johnson said some people avoid setting up online access to their accounts, assuming it is safer. But, he said, establishing online access yourself makes it harder for a criminal to impersonate you.
“Making sure that you are set up online for your bank, for your merchant, for Social Security. That makes it hard for a criminal to come in and set up that information in your name,” he said. “Because when a criminal does that and you have not done that, the criminal then looks like the more legitimate owner.”
To get more tips for protecting your online identity, go to AARP.org/FraudWatchNetwork.