Identity Theft: How to Keep Your Information Safe

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Identity theft can happen to anyone. Since we use the internet to do more every day tasks such as shop, bank,file, taxes, etc., there’s an increased risk that thieves are stealing the personal information being entered to these sites. Even being careful may not protect you, these savvy thieves may be able to obtain your information by hacking into the systems of larger businesses, as millions of people learned when they heard of the Equifax breach.

 

Cyber breaches went from 780 in 2015 to a whopping 1,093 in 2016, with most impacting medical/health care organizations, education and government/ military sectors. As of October 2017, there was already 1,056 breaches reported that exposed more than 171 million records. Experts report that stolen information can sell for more than $30 per identity on the black market. For the person’s identity that was stolen, they pay a much bigger price, in time and frustration alone. Learning what to do if your information has been compromised is important and we’re here to help.

 

The Rise Of Data Breaches

The Equifax breach mentioned above goes to show that even if you are cautious about protecting your personal information, it may still be compromised. Hackers were able to steal information from 143 million Americans in this breach. Information such as names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, as well as the credit card numbers from 209,000 people. A page has been set up by Equifax for those who may have been impacted; Equifaxsecurity2017.com.

 

Even email providers are no longer safe from data breaches. Three billion people were impacted when names, email addresses,telephone numbers, dates of birth, passwords and security question answers were stolen from a Yahoo breach in 2013. People were encouraged that passwords and security questions be changed often to ensure that breaches like these do not happen as frequently.

 

Here’s What You Can Do If You Become A Victim:

You may not realize that you have been a victim of a security breach until you hear about it on the news. If you suspect that your information has been taken, the first thing you should do is to check all of your credit reports- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion- by getting a free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. If you have already accessed your credit report, you may have to pay a fee.

 

The next step is to monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity. Review each charge carefully to make sure it was in fact a purchased you made. If you do find any fraudulent activity, put a freeze on the account. This makes it difficult for the thief to use info to open a new account in your name; however this will not prevent you from making charges to your current credit accounts. This freeze will last until you remove it; except in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota where the freeze will last seven years.

 

You may also place a fraud alert on your credit file which will warn creditors that your identity was stolen. This alert prompts them to verify the identity of anyone looking to get credit in your name.


Lastly, filing your taxes early can prevent a scammer from filing for you and collecting your refund.