Identity theft hits three year high

You hear about it all the time. Maybe you’ve taken action to protect yourself against it, maybe you plan to or maybe you think it can’t happen to you. Whatever the case, this is a must read. In a 2013 report by Javelin Strategy & Research it was revealed that 12.6 million Americans were the victim of identity fraud in 2012 resulting in 21 billion dollars being stolen. Although the dollar amount stolen is consistent with last year, the number of Americans affected is up 13 percent. A good sign is that affected persons out of pocket costs have decreased more that 40% since 2004. This can be attributed to the increased availability and use of all of the prevention, detection and fraud alert tools. It seems like it makes sense to be proactive and protect yourself and your family form an Identity theft attack.

Aside from this being a personal issue to all, here are some key findings that affect you, the merchant. A key finding in this study showed that smart phone users were affected 33% more than non-users. This is primarily due to the fact that most users do not password protect their phones, do not update to new software versions when available, and store user ID’s and logins on the device. So be sure to do all of this especially if you are a merchant using a smart phone credit card processing application and device; theft of yours could affect more than just you.

Another dramatic increase was the fact that Identity theft, as a result of data breach, was up 67% from 2010. So be careful what you store on your personal computer but be extra careful if you are a merchant because you are responsible for all of your customers personal and financial data such as account numbers and credit card information; make sure it is encrypted and ensure your network is secure. Hire a PCI DSS professional. A breach of a merchants system is a catastrophic occurrence.

Here is some important advice to online merchants. Fifteen percent of people affected by identity theft claim they would avoid shopping on websites of smaller online merchants. This is due to the fact that they feel the size of the business is directly related to the level of security a merchant can afford. You need to be sure your online store is built with the consumer in mind with the primary focus being on their confidence in the security of their credit card data and their personal information. First and foremost, your secure payment gateway needs to be a reliable and reputable one. Do your homework and don’t cut corners here; security and reliability comes with a cost. Further there are many companies out there that do in depth analysis’s of merchants websites and background checks on the business to confirm security and legitimacy. Companies like TRUST e, Norton, and Site Lock are a few, and although expensive the ROI is well worth it.

Identity theft is a serious issue and will be a constant struggle as more and more information becomes readily available. Protect yourself and your family and, as a merchant, protect your clients.

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