Identity Theft and Financial Crimes Dominate Cyber Fears in the US

The United States has faced and continues to face significant cybercrime threats related to identity theft and various digital financial crimes related to stolen bank credentials. These types of crimes significantly impact individuals’ financial well-being and personal lives.

With each passing year, financial crimes have increasingly become a greater concern in the online community as new instances of data breaches occur. Yet, with the aid of cybersecurity tools and best cybersecurity practices, citizens can avoid becoming the victims of cybercrimes.

Data Breaches

Data breaches are responsible for exposing personal and financial information related to millions of US citizens. For example, in 2017, the Equifax data breach compromised the credit card information and Social Security numbers of about 147 million people.

In 2021, Microsoft’s Exchange email servers were affected by a cyberattack that allowed cybercriminals to gain unauthorized access to the emails of over 30,000 US companies. Authorities blamed the attack on a Chinese-state-sponsored group of cybercriminals known as Hafnium.

In late 2023, about 11,000 Bank of America customers were affected by another data breach. There are several other examples, but it only highlights that neither individuals nor companies are immune to online data breaches. In these types of cyberattacks, the following information is usually exposed:

  • Home addresses
  • Full names and gender
  • Social Security numbers
  • Government IDs
  • Financial account information
  • Social media accounts and email information

Phishing Scams

Phishing scams, just like data breaches, can lead to identity theft and financial losses. Phishing scams are more prevalent than ever nowadays as they are the most common form of cybercrime.

In the US, states such as Nevada, New Jersey, California, and New York are among the most affected by phishing scams. In Nevada, for example, about 13.58 citizens out of 100.000 fall victim to a phishing scam, resulting in thousands of dollars in losses.

Phishing scams are very different from data breaches. In a data breach, cybercriminals infiltrate a data source through malware, bypassing network security and breaking weak credentials or stealing them.

In a phishing scam, individuals are tricked into revealing their sensitive information. This happens as hackers pose as legitimate entities. They sometimes compromise one account and use it to send further phishing scams to others. Emails, phone calls, and fraudulent websites can be used in phishing scams.

Credit Card Fraud

In many instances in the US, individuals face unauthorized transactions related to their bank accounts. This occurs when a credit card’s information is stolen. Cybercriminals can steal card details and conduct fraudulent activities through malware and viruses. Sometimes, even connecting to public Wi-Fi without precautions can lead to such instances of credit card fraud.

Staying Safe in the Online World

US citizens are, unfortunately, all too familiar with identity theft and financial crimes. Those that aren’t are only the next victims. Because of this, spreading awareness is crucial. Here are some tips on how to stay safe and avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime:

Protect Your Personal Information

Individuals must always safeguard their personal information. If you must share your bank account details, Social Security numbers, or other sensitive information online, proceed cautiously. Only provide this data to trusted and verified sources.

Be Wary of Phishing Attempts

Many messages, emails, or calls sometimes request personal information or payment details. However, you should always verify the authenticity of such communications before sharing any information. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Monitor Financial Accounts

Bank statements, credit card bills, and credit reports should be reviewed regularly. This is to ensure that you aren’t dealing with any instances of unauthorized transactions. If there are any discrepancies related to your financial accounts, contact your financial institution and inquire about any suspicions.

Use Strong and Unique Passwords

It’s important to avoid using the same credentials across multiple platforms. If one account is breached, the next one will follow. Always use strong, unique passwords that combine numbers, symbols, and letters. Use a password manager to generate unique, strong passwords and securely store them. This will also help you remember them even if they are complex.

Use a VPN and Vulnerability Detection Tools

A VPN (virtual private network) can be an invaluable tool to enhance your online security and privacy. This software encrypts your internet traffic and masks your IP address, making your data much more difficult to intercept.

Some VPN providers come with their own antivirus software or vulnerability detection tools. They can aid you in identifying any security vulnerabilities on your devices and patching them up. This way, you ensure that your cybersecurity is top-notch and always enhanced against the latest threats.

A vulnerability detection tool can identify various types of flaws in your system, such as showcasing outdated software. Without updates, software or firmware becomes susceptible to cyberattacks. However, updates come with the latest security patches to address newly discovered bugs and other vulnerabilities.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

US citizens should consider enabling multi-factor authentication on their online accounts. This additional verification method goes beyond a simple password. It sends unique codes generated to your registered device to gain access to online accounts. This extra layer of security can make a huge difference in the long run for your cybersecurity and online accounts.