Expert Interview with Robert Siciliano on Identity Theft

Robert Siciliano has been teaching people how to protect themselves for decades. Interested in both personal security and digital, Robert is an expert at protecting yourself both online and in the real world. He spoke with us about digital security and online safety.

How'd you become involved in identity protection and personal security?

I was bullied as a kid, and as I started taking self-defense courses, I began to meet young women who had been sexually assaulted. That's when I started to teach self-defense and started a small business selling personal security products. Shortly after I received merchant status, my small business was hacked and I lost thousands of dollars in product and received multiple chargebacks. Now personal security meant more than protecting yourself from violence and theft in the physical world: It meant protecting your identity and information in the virtual world.

There's a lot of anxiety around identity theft. How concerned should the man on the street truly be?

There are certain truths in life, and one of them is that you will eventually be stolen from. Identity theft is one of those crimes that poses a certain amount of inevitability. And depending on the nature of the identity theft, it could cost you very little and take no time, or could cost you a lot and take forever to fix and might never go away.

What are some common ways people lose their identities, and how can they be counteracted?

New account fraud occurs when someone uses your social security number to open lines of credit under your name; the best way to prevent this is to use identity theft protection and/or a credit freeze. I do both. The other prevalent form of identity theft is account takeover, which occurs when someone uses your existing account number such as a credit card number and makes unauthorized charges or gets your username and password to your bank account and makes unauthorized withdrawals or cash transfers.

The best way to protect yourself with account takeover as it relates to banking is to make sure your PC is locked down with antivirus, anti-spyware, antiphishing and a firewall; use strong passwords including uppercase, lowercase, numbers and characters; change them up frequently; and never use any public PCs. Never use public Wi-Fi to engage in online banking. With credit card takeover, just simply pay attention to your credit card statements daily, weekly, monthly, and refute unauthorized activity within 60 days. I use Mint to pay attention to all of my transactions on both my bank account and all of my credit cards.

What steps should we all take to secure the information on our phones and tablets?

Antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing, a firewall update your critical security patches; keep your operating system up-to-date; use the latest version of your browser; and use a virtual private network such as Hotspot Shield when logging into unsecured wireless.

When we hear about identity theft, it's often about credit cards. Does identity theft ever go further?

Credit card fraud is just one form of identity theft, and again there's new account fraud medical identity theft, criminal identity theft, tax identity theft, child identity theft...

Where do you see identity protection heading in the next few years?

As criminal hackers get better at infiltrating systems, account takeover will continue to rise, including credit card fraud and funneling money out of personal and business bank accounts.

If you want to stay on the cutting edge of digital security, follow Robert on Twitter.