WDAY: The News Leader

Published November 26, 2013, 09:47 PM

With more dependency on technology identity theft chances rise

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Wireless internet is becoming an essential, as the world is more dependent than ever on technology.

By: Drew Trafton, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Wireless internet is becoming an essential, as the world is more dependent than ever on technology.

And with the emerging threat of identity theft, online security is also a necessity.

There are a few simple steps you can take to be safe.

Identity theft is a crime that impacts 11-point-6 million people a year in the United States.

Estimated to cause $13.2 billion dollars in financial losses this year alone.

And, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, the group being hit the hardest, might surprise you.

It's those people aged 18-24.

It's not hard to see why college-aged students stand out:

Everywhere you look-- it's cell phone, tablet, laptop.

And when it comes to the life blood of the devices, the internet, convenience can sometimes outweigh security.

Sarah Cannedy/Junior at MSUM: "If it doesn't have a password, I will probably use it just because it's easy access to it and everything."

Alissa Mears/Sophomore at MSUM: "Just kind of, you know, free Wi-Fi, doesn't have a password-- easy to get on there and use the internet."

But these students aren't alone.

In fact, a poll conducted by the Identity Theft Resource Center claimed that people were 3 times more likely to log on to a Wi-Fi network if it was free.

Most businesses that offer free Wifi, such as coffee houses, take precautionary measures to protect customers, by setting a password patrons must ask for to access the network.

"WiFi is public."

But Atomic Coffee manager Angela Kube says there are still risks.

Angela Kube/Manager at Atomic Coffee: "People need to take their own precautions as far as not putting out sensitive information such as credit card information, social security number when they're in a public space, because even though they're on a network that's supposedly secure-- if they know how to hack, they can get in."

And access your most intimate documents.

Dustin Roberts/Forum Communications Network Analyst: "Student loans, your online banking, and then your tax information."

Dustin Roberts is a Network Analyst with Forum Communications.

Roberts says aside from using open networks.

People tend to also make mistakes due to pure laziness.

Roberts: "A lot of people use the same password on every website that they visit, or very similar passwords.”

An ideal password should be 6 to 12 characters in length, it should be case sensitive, and include letters and numbers and at least one special character.

The other tip virtually anyone can use to be safe, is to not avoid those software update reminders everyone loves to bypass.

Roberts: "That's probably the easiest way to protect yourself from vulnerabilities. That's on your computer, too."

And a final factor that is already at work in your favor: geography. North Dakota has the second lowest rate of identity theft per capita of any U.S. state, trailing only South Dakota.