“Data breach”- something that only happens to other people, right? It may be more common than you think. Since 2005, over 563 millions records containing sensitive information have been compromised, and according to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, this number could be even higher.
If your personal info falls into the hands of thieves, there are still ways for you to protect yourself. Even some of our own techs have been victims of identity theft, and they've offered us a few tips.
If you suspect someone might be using your identity, the best first step is to obtain a free annual credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com and monitor it closely for unfamiliar activity, like a bank account you don’t remember opening. Don’t be fooled by sites that promise free reports in exchange for a subscription.
Next, request a free public records report from ChoicePoint (www.choicetrust.com). These are the same reports used by many businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies to help them make decisions on hiring, insurance, housing and more. Scan this report for false addresses and other inaccuracies that might be related to fraudulent activity.
There are plenty of other easy, tangible steps to take in order to reduce the risk of identity theft. Use a mailbox that locks and switch from paper bills to electronic bills whenever possible. Shred confidential mail and credit card pitches using a crosscut paper shredder to deter potential dumpster-diving identity thieves. Never carry paper checks or a social security card because the cost of losing them is just too great.
Get educated. Web sites like www.identitytheft.org and www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsi/estidtheft/ have info on how to avoid being victimized, and what to do if it’s already happened. Gauge your personal safety risk, and find tips for lowering it, by taking the 10-question safety quiz at www.idsafety.net. If you believe that you are a victim of identity theft, contact www.idtheftcenter.org. Volunteers there can walk you through the process of restoring your identity.
Fixing the damage from identity theft can take a lot of time and stress. But with these tips, hopefully you'll never have to experience it yourself.
To continue reading about Identity Theft, read our blog: Don't Get Caught In A Phisher's Net!