Updated: Jun 30, 2020
It's no longer a question of IF, but WHEN, you'll be a victim of ID theft. Here's what you need to know, and what to do when it does.
Since 2010, data breaches have been increasing at an alarming rate. In 2018 alone, there were 12,449 confirmed Data Breaches. That was a 424% increase over the previous year. If you think you’re not a victim of identity theft, you probably either just haven’t been targeted yet, or you’re just not aware of it.
If you weren't impacted by some of the larger, recent data breaches of Twitter, Marriott/Starwood, Equifax, Yahoo, or Friend Finder Network, etc., you may have had your information stolen in one of the “smaller” ones: Schnucks, Home Depot, Target, etc.
These are just some of the data breaches we know about. Have you ever considered the ones we didn’t hear about, that didn’t get reported? Or the ones that are currently going on that haven’t been realized yet?
There’s a good chance your personal data has been bought and sold. When it will be used against you is anyone’s guess.
We live in a computer technology driven world where the hack attempts are constant, and they come from everywhere including Russia, China, Turkey, Taiwan, Brazil, India, Germany, Romania, France & United Kingdom. (Wait a minute...aren’t some of those countries our allies?)
Before you start feeling sorry for the United States, we hack, too. In fact, we’re probably the second leading nation with hackers, right behind China.
The challenge comes when we don’t know which hackers are our friends, and which ones are not. Which ones start out as good guys and end up being bad guys.
The reality is, you can be anywhere in the world including here in the US and not be on the good side. Corporations pay a lot of money to those they hope are “good guy” or “white hat” hackers to try to find holes in their systems so they can be patched. Fun fact: For hackers, there’s a lot more money to be made on the dark side.
Information is constantly being gathered and sold, both legitimately, legally and otherwise. There’s an entire dark web that contains all kinds of information about anything and anyone you can think of, including you. There’s a good chance your personal data has been bought and sold. When it will be used against you is anyone’s guess.
You can visit HaveIBeenPwned.com and enter your email address to see if its been compromised in any data breaches.
When a data breach occurs, the company that was impacted usually notifies victims and offers free credit monitoring for a year or two. My advice would be to take it. By the time the year or two is up, some other company will have been compromised and then that other company will offer you another year of free coverage. You’ll get the same coverage for which some people pay $12/month.
We also recommend using a Secure Password Manager
Another way you can protect yourself is to make sure you ALWAYS use a strong and unique password for every account you have. If you are thinking "There's no way I will be able to remember different passwords for every different account I have!", you aren't alone. That's where Secure Password Managers come in.Secure Password Manager.
These applications allow you to securely create and store unique, strong passwords for each of your accounts using military grade encryption. They allow you to safely and securely login from any of your devices automatically, or with a single click. Many even monitor the dark web and notify you if any of your accounts, logins or passwords have been compromised. Can you imagine never having to remember a password again?
"But is it really a good idea to store all my passwords in one place?"
That depends on where and how you store them, so you need to be careful about the password manager you choose. There are a lot of options out there, and you could spend a lot time searching the internet for the "right one."
I encourage you to take advantage of the hundreds of hours our friends over at ConsumersAdvocate.org have already spent researching and comparing some of the best password managers on the market.
What you need to know/do:
If you have been the victim of identity theft, you should always file a police report. Even though your local police department probably won’t be able to do much about it, you’ll have your report as proof when/if you get calls from people stating you owe money for something.
Check your current credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to make sure you recognize everything on it.
Contact one of the 3 credit bureaus and report it. - Equifax: www.Equifax.com - TransUnion: www.TransUnion.com - Experian: www.Experian.com They can place an alert on your SSN for free so that if anyone tries to open a new line of credit, you’ll be notified.
If you’re collecting social security benefits, contact your local SSA office to notify them so that your benefits don’t get diverted.