Cyber-crooks gear up for ID bonanza

Cyber-crooks gear up for ID bonanza

'Tis the season to be careful

Security experts have warned consumers to be aware of the growing threat of ID theft as the online holiday shopping season reaches full swing.

ID Secure, which uses public records, Social Security numbers and credit card monitoring technology to fight ID theft, said that personal identities could also be for sale to Christmas shoppers in the criminal world.

"Wherever there is information about a person, whether retained by a retailer, bank, credit bureau or database, there is someone out there who has the ability to steal it," said Dan Clements, a spokesman for ID Secure.

"The more difficult you make it for someone to rip you off, the less chance you have of becoming a victim of identity theft. These criminals are not looking for a challenge; they are looking for an opportunity."

Retail sales are expected to hit $474bn this year, according to the National Retail Federation, and online shopping soared 37 per cent on Cyber-Monday this year.

ID Secure has issued the following tips to help consumers shop safely this year:

  • Limit the credit cards you carry, and leave other ID such as Social Security cards at home
  • Keep all receipts and examine every charge on your statement before paying
  • Make sure your security and antivirus software is updated regularly
  • Give cash or gift cards as presents rather than writing cheques
  • Use a cross-cut shredder
  • Use passwords that are not easily cracked by hackers

    Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America, according to a study from Javelin Strategy & Research. The company recorded 27.3 million victims in the past five years, and nearly 20 million in the past two years.

    "New technologies can keep consumers one step ahead of would be ID thieves. They are perhaps the best chance of avoiding identity-related criminal abuse," said Clements.

    "Punishment for fraud and recovery of stolen funds is so rare that prevention is the only viable course of action."