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Growth of technology expands risk for identity theft

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Arizona ranked No. 9 in the nation for identity theft in 2014, with 96 identity theft complaints for every 100,000 people, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

The threat of identity theft has grown by about 26 percent in 10 years, with a national total of 332,646 complaints in 2014.

This growing risk for identity theft can be attributed to several factors, including the growth of technology and the amount of information people put online, LifeLock President and CEO-elect Hilary Schneider said.

“The definition of identity today is fundamentally different than the definition of identity yesterday,” Schneider said.

Schneider, who grew up in Tucson, gave a lecture about the importance of personal privacy at the Arizona State University W.P. Carey Economic Club of Phoenix luncheon on Feb. 16.

LifeLock, based in Tempe, offers protection against identity theft by monitoring and notifying its customers about suspicious activity.

Schneider said the aspects of identity theft have evolved from just Social Security numbers, addressesw, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers to include things like social media profiles, passwords, browsing history and usernames.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2014 indicated that about 7 percent of people over the age of 16 in the United States were victims of a form of identity theft.

“It’s what you buy, where you go, who you know, what you watch. All of that is information that is being stored on you,” Schneider said.

There were 6,460 identity theft complaints in Arizona in 2014, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The top four areas of identity theft in the state included fraudulent government documents (2011 complaints), credit card fraud (927 complaints), employment-related fraud (855 complaints) and phone or utilities fraud (679 complaints).

Schneider said there is a trade-off that must take place when using technology, and that trade-off is your information in exchange for the use of an application or website.

“Google has your search history,” she said. “Gmail is reading all your emails and using all your information to create advertisements for you. I still use Gmail anyway.”

Some companies, like Tesla, are taking a stand against identity theft when it comes to data available in their cars. Tesla cars allow users to connect information from smartphones to the car.

When you leave your car with a valet, you can lock down the system so your personal information cannot be accessed. This feature was developed three years after the car was first released.

“That’s gonna show you the catch-up game we’re gonna be in,” Schneider said. “We’ll be introducing new devices, and we’ll not always understand on the back end exactly the power of the data that’s within those devices, the accessibility to others with bad intent to capture that kind of information.”

With applications tracking your location and websites compiling your search history, there’s a constant stream of data being created and used to learn more about you.

“The amount of personal data flowing across the Internet will continue to grow exponentially. They’re accumulating so much information about us,” Schneider said.

While the number of identity thefts is increasing, the Bureau of Justice Statistics said half of all victims resolve the problems associated with identity theft in a day or less, and only about 14 percent of identity theft victims suffered financial losses of a dollar or more.

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