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You Are Vulnerable to Identity Theft

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You Are Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Not that long ago, identify theft happened when someone lost a purse or wallet, or their mail was stolen. Today, with the recent explosion of database hacking, security precautions have become one of our top priorities.  Many of us pay hundreds of dollars annually for a subscription service that will notify us of unauthorized activity on our credit reports or checking accounts, just to have some of peace of mind.

robberIn 2014, Target Stores – had, by some claims over 100 million records hacked and stolen.  Anthem Health – almost 80 million records, Home Depot nearly 50 million and Chase Bank about 83 million accounts! These are just a few businesses that sustained major credit card and identity theft hacking just during 2014 – totaling hundreds of millions of account combined!  You guessed it – identity theft affects everyone.

It should be no secret to you that data breaches today are the biggest threat to identity security. If hackers can break into the computers of high profile organizations, including federal agencies, they can break into smaller businesses’ databases as well.

How severe is the threat of identity theft? Everybody needs to realize they are exposed, and they can never fully avoid identity theft. No agency or organization can guarantee it will protect a person’s credit. The only thing that can be done is to be proactive and to mitigate the damage when it happens.  Chances are almost guaranteed that you are going to be a victim!

How can individuals be proactive in protecting their identity?

Anything that contains a Social Security number gives a thief carte blanche to impersonate someone in order to obtain new credit and make additional fraudulent transactions. Keep you date of birth, previous addresses and employer info private.

People should always use care when sharing any information, especially on social media sites. If someone’s birthday is on Facebook, it gives a thief another piece to be able to steal that person’s identity since birthdates are a common security question.

Unsafe places to use a debit card are: Gas stations, ATMs, online purchases, and even places like restaurants where you credit card is taken by the server. Consider paying for your gas inside rather than at the pump.

U.S. citizens are allowed to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. All three must be checked because the information can be radically different between the bureaus.

What should a business do to prevent identity theft?

The way a company protects its database is the most critical. There are state and federal regulations on how the information has to be protected, but many businesses don’t take the threat seriously. Companies should also consider developing a strict vendor management program for when sensitive information is shared with a vendor. Every vendor must understand they have a responsibility to know how their customer’s data is protected from identity theft.

Identity thieves have no limits when it comes to committing their crime. They have been known to hijack driver’s licenses and passports, steal mail, tamper with investment accounts, secure utility services, get student loans, and file for bankruptcy in other people’s names. And last, don’t put mail (or leave mail) in your mailbox at the street!

Author:   Dick Wagner

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