Home > Identity Theft > Online Threats That Will Throw You Off the Security Balance Beam

Comments 0 Comments

By Ondrej Krehel

By now you’ve all seen the video of American gymnast Aly Raisman’s parents wincing, twisting and turning in their seats as they watched their daughter compete for Team USA in the Olympics gymnastics competition. (If you’ve been off the grid, check it out here.)

We know how they feel, because when we see consumers making big mistakes online, we squirm and shout. We don’t yell “Stick it!” right before the dismount, but we get pretty worked up.

Just as NBC announcer Tim Daggett delivers one of his Daggetts to the heart of a teenage gymnast (“That’s gonna be a half-point deduction …”), we’re going to be brutally honest about the performance of consumers. We can’t sugarcoat it, because there’s more at stake for online users than going for gold or settling for silver. One blip on the beam or pratfall on the pommel can make a bank-account balance drop faster than an icy judge’s score. And it’ll take more than a Wheaties box to build it back.

So without further ado, and without a pre-recorded national anthem blaring, we at IDentity Theft 911 award the medals for the 2012 (In)Security Games in the event of online threats.

Free Tool: Credit Report CardGold: Oversharing

Yes, that’s right, oversharing wins the gold this year. It’s no longer an annoying habit of those Facebook friends who tell the world when they’re going on vacation, where they live and their child’s full name and birth date. Oversharing has taken on a whole new level of danger in 2012. Consider the Twitter account @NeedADebitCard. This account retweets messages from the Interweb where people have willingly exposed their debit card numbers, usually with an image of the card that shows their full name and expiration date, along with a message like, “Yaaaay my credit card came in! <3.” Too much information online opens you up to identity theft and serious credit problems—more than worthy of a gold.

[Credit Check Tool: Monitor your credit score and activity for free with Credit.com]

Silver: Phishing Websites

The Anti-Phishing Working Group recently reported that the number of phishing websites reached an all-time high this year, with the U.S. hosting the most fraudulent. Almost 57,000 sites were detected in February, beating last year’s previous high. These sites imitate legitimate businesses such as big banks and popular websites such as PayPal, eBay and others. They aim to trick users into submitting personal information that crooks then use to rip them off. Keep an eye on phishing websites at the 2016 games. At this rate they’ll surely be vying for the top step on the podium.

[Featured Products: Research and compare identity theft protection plans at Credit.com]

Bronze: Tax Identity Theft

Much like phishing websites, tax identity theft is skyrocketing, breaking all previous (In)Security Olympic records. In 2011, more than 640,000 taxpayers went through some kind of tax-related identity theft. That smashed the previous 2010 record of 270,000 by more than double. These crimes range from crooks submitting victims’ personal information to claim tax returns all the way to inside jobs at the IRS. Now we find that the IRS may have delivered more than$5 billion in tax refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns in 2011. To make matters worse, the perpetrators often pose as legitimate tax preparers or tax preparation websites.

Consumers can protect themselves from these online threats by following our tips to guard their personal information.

Stay tuned next week for our continued coverage of the 2012 Olympics (In)Security Games.

This post originally appeared on IDentity Theft 911. Ondrej Krehel is Chief Information Security Officer for the company.

Image: torbakhopper, via Flickr

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team