The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has tracked data breaches since 2005. In the first seven months of 2015 (through July 28th) there were 450 significant data breaches in the U.S., with over 135 million reported records breached. And in the majority of breaches, the number of exposed records is not even known.
Breaches can be caused by insider theft, hacking, data on the move, subcontractors/third parties, employer errors/negligence, accidental web exposure and physical theft. What breaches have in common is that they usually compromise personal identifying information, such as Social Security number, credit/debit card number, email/password/user name and/or protected health information. And this information is easily read by thieves because those entrusted in protecting your personal data have not encrypted (e.g. concealed so that the data cannot be utilized so easily).
I don't know about you, but I'm getting overwhelmed with warnings about my personal information being breached by large organizations that one would think would have adequate safeguards in place. Target, Anthem, UCLA Health, to name just a few. One source for helping alleviate this feeling is IdentityTheft.org.
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims, providing checklists and sample letters to guide you through the process of recovering from identity theft.
The website is simply laid out to help you quickly address the following matters if you believe your identity has been compromised:
What Should I Do Right Away? In order to quickly address issues resulting from identity theft, there’s a checklist that covers 1) calling the companies where you know the fraud occurred; 2) placing fraud alerts at the major credit bureaus; 3) reporting identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission and 4) filing a report with the police.
What Do I Do Next? The next steps in the process include 1) closing accounts opened in your name; 2) removing fraudulent charges from your accounts; 3) correcting your credit report; and 4) requesting extended fraud alerts or credit freezes with the credit bureaus. The site provides a variety of form letter templates to help expedite this process for you.
What Other Steps Should I Take? There are a variety of other actions highlighted that may apply to your situation, including 1) resolving tax-related identity theft; 2) reporting misused Social Security numbers; 3) responding to debt collectors trying to collect on debts that are not yours; 4) replacing government IDs, like driver’s licenses, passports and Social Security cards; 5) resolving the particular issues of child identity theft; 6) resolving medical identity theft and 7) clearing your name of criminal charges if the thief used your personal information while committing a crime.
And there’s a section covering additional steps that might be needed for identity theft used to initiate utilities, checking accounts, student loans, investment accounts and bankruptcies filed in your name.
Visit www.IdentityTheft.gov to learn more.
Now, if you want to cut off one type of identify theft in it tracks...credit theft, strongly consider doing a security freeze!