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Consumer Insight

How to stay safe and protect yourself from identity theft

Nov. 3, 2023

How to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft and Stay Safe Online

From medical information to financial records, nearly every type of personal data is stored online. The internet, while a convenient resource, opens the door for identity theft and other cybercrimes. To help reduce your cybersecurity risks, consider these tips from the NAIC.  

What is identity theft, and who is at risk?  

Identity theft is the unauthorized use or attempted use of an existing account, use of your information to open a new account, and misuse of your information to commit fraud.   

Even if someone has never used the internet, they are still at risk, as many companies store data online. Data thieves gain access to information from a variety of places, including your mailbox, home and business trash, public landfills, public records, and social media.  

How can I protect my information?  

  • Use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication provides additional security to keep unauthorized users from accessing accounts. 

  • Update your software regularly and consider setting up automatic updates.  

  • Click with caution. According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), more than 90% of successful cyberattacks start with phishing emails.  

  • Use strong passwords. Consider using a password generator and manager to create unique login credentials.  

  • Review your financial accounts and credit report. Every year, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three main credit reporting companies.  

  • Be mindful of what you post online. The internet is a public resource. Do not post photos that reveal your address. Scan the background of your images for sensitive information and documents.  

  • Ask questions before giving out your Social Security number (SSN). According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “Some organizations need your Social Security number to identify you. Those organizations include the IRS, your bank, and your employer. Organizations like these that do need your Social Security number won’t call, email, or text you to ask for it. Other organizations that might ask you for your Social Security number might not really need it. Those organizations include a medical provider, a company, or your child’s school. Ask these questions before you give them your Social Security number: Why do you need it? How will you protect it? Can you use a different identifier? Can you use just the last four digits of my Social Security number?” 

What should I do if identity theft occurs?  

If a data thief steals your information, report it to the Federal Trade Commission and follow the recommended steps

For additional information on how to protect yourself, consider these resources:  

Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency 
Federal Trade Commission – Identity Theft and Online Security 
Federal Trade Commission – Identity Theft  

About the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

As part of our state-based system of insurance regulation in the United States, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides expertise, data, and analysis for insurance commissioners to effectively regulate the industry and protect consumers. The U.S. standard-setting organization is governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer reviews, and coordinate regulatory oversight. NAIC staff supports these efforts and represents the collective views of state regulators domestically and internationally.