Monday, February 1, 2016

Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers, and Identity Thieves
© 2015 Adam Levin
288 pages



 Looking for a growth industry? Try identity theft. Over a third of Americans have experienced some degree of outside use of their accounts, and that number will only rise as our personal data is collected in more and more places.  News reports may have alerted citizens to the need to destroy physical mail carrying their social security number and other personal information, but  even the most vigilant of privacy-protectors can’t stop outside forces from sacking institutions that use that data. Big box stores, transnational health insurance providers, even the federal government: all are vulnerable.  In Swiped, Levin maintains that if a given reader hasn’t already experienced identity theft, the odds are good that they will in the near future.   Instead of consoling oneself with the pleasant notion that such a crime can’t happen to them, he urges readers to minimize their risk, monitor their accounts, and take precautions to manage the damage.

Personal cybersecurity, covered in only a chapter of books like Future Crimes, takes center stage here, and with chapters especially devoted to identity theft arising from tax fraud and healthcare systems,  it makes for an especially pertinent read for tax season. The heaviest burden for action against identity theft is laid on the individual, for we are much more quick-footed about adapting behavior to threats than institutions, and have the most control over releasing information. Regardless of the precautions taken -- the savvy exercised -- at some point Levin believes that most people's personal accounts will be compromised.  He recommends constant scrutiny of personal records: daily bank check-ins, thorough examinations of "benefits received" from insurance companies, etc.  Finally, Levin urges readers to have an action plan for when -- not if -- they are compromised.  Know what accounts you need to freeze, what forms to file -- and don't think it stops with your death, either, because there are plenty of operators who comb the obituaries for accounts to borrow. While his emphasis is on personal vigilance, Levin also has chapters detailing ideas for business security culture, and national-level legislation.   Swiped is fast and abounding with ideas on 'data hygiene', and its emphasis on action rather than alarm makes it an welcome follow-up to Data and Goliath and Future Crimes.

Related:
Ten Don'ts On Your Digital Devices, Daniel G. Bachrach, Eric J. Rzeszut


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