In the age of constant data breaches, it can be hard for anyone to keep their digital identities secure – but here in Washington, some help is on the way. Nearly two-billion records nationwide were exposed in 2017 by breaches, according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. With that in mind, security and consumer experts are going on tour in the Evergreen State to help people protect their identities. Doug Shadel heads AARP Washington, one of the organizations launching the “Taking Charge of Your Digital Identity” campaign.
“We say that we’re sort of living in this ‘post-prevention world,’ and what I mean by that is that pretty much everyone’s information has been compromised already. That’s the bad news. The good news is there’s something you can do, steps you can take to prevent that theft of your personal information from being converted into identity fraud.”
Shadel says it’s also good news that only about six percent of people actually become identity theft victims, despite the rising number of data breaches. The campaign launches today at South Seattle College, where it’s already full. It’s in Spokane on June 14th, Vancouver on June 27th, and the Tri-Cities on July 11th. Partners on the tour include the Washington state Attorney General’s office, Federal Trade Commission, Social Security Administration, BECU and Microsoft.
AARP also released a survey today that says the majority of Washingtonians lack the knowledge to protect themselves online. Six in ten failed a quiz testing their “digital identity I-Q.” Among other markers, the survey found almost half of respondents use the same password for more than one account. Shadel says strong passwords are critical to online safety. As an example, he says a hacker might get access to your Netflix password but not your bank account password.
“Well, if you’re using the same password for both of those, then they’ve got access to both. So, we recommend that people use software like a password manager that will not only manage all of your passwords online securely, but they can generate difficult-to-hack passwords for you, so you don’t have to do that.”
Consumer fraud experts say folks should also set up and monitor online bank accounts and freeze their credit. State lawmakers recently passed a bill making it free for Washingtonians to freeze and unfreeze their credit starting June 7th. AARP’s Fraud Watch Network website has more tips on preventing identity theft online.