32 people had their data lost or stolen every SECOND in 2014. Breaches to data groups numbered over 1500 in 2014, up an astounding 46 percent over the year before. This is equal to over 1 billion people who had their records stolen. (1)
Accidental loss accounted for 25 percent and the remaining 75 percent were spread between malicious outsiders, malicious insiders (people inside companies who stole the information) and hackers. (2)
Have you been affected?
In 2014 my card information was accessed through a breach in records from Home Depot. In 2008 and 2009 my friend had fraudulent activity on one of her cards, and again just this past month someone charged over $400.00 in merchandise on her card.
If you hold a credit card, have money in the bank or otherwise do any kind of business, your financial information and identity are at risk. In fact, it’s not just your financial identity that can be stolen but also your medical identity!
Someone who steals your medical information can use your name or health insurance numbers to see a doctor, get prescriptions, file claims or get other care. When their information is mixed with yours, your future treatments and credit reports will be affected.
Your responsibility . . . . .
Unfortunately, there is no one who will protect your identity except you. There are companies who will monitor activity on your credit reports, but it is up to you to ensure your safety and the safety of your family.
It might be scary – but let’s reduce it to manageable steps.
Protecting your financial information is critical to the health of your family. Money can’t buy you love or happiness. But, money is essential to everyday life. When you’re spending your hard earned money to pay for someone else’s lifestyle, it becomes very important, very quickly.
Before you get your data stolen.
- Use only one credit card. You might have three or four, but you should only use one of them, especially for online purchases. It doesn’t take an online purchase to lose your credit data, as demonstrated by the hacks to Target, Home Depot and a number of other large department stores.
- Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet. If your purse is stolen, so is your identity. Have the number memorized.
- Keep your credit cards in an RFID protected case. Thieves can steal your credit card by just walking close to you when they have the right device.
- NEVER respond to unsolicited emails or phone calls where you are asked to provide sensitive information. Do not give your bank numbers, passwords, user names, social security number or birthdate.
- Get your mail from the mailbox promptly each day. If you’re going to be away, have the post office hold your mail.
- Stop paper delivery of your bills and request online delivery. This keeps your identification information from sitting in your mailbox.
- Never store your passwords online in your browser or in programs like LastPass. Your user names and passwords for financial information must be kept off the computer and not online.
- Change your passwords every three to six months and never use the same password for multiple sites. Create complex passwords that include capitalization, unique characters, letters and numbers.
- Install firewalls and virus protection on your home computer.
- Never access password protected information in a public place. Your information is too easily seen and stolen.
- Order a free credit report every four months from the three different credit reporting agencies. TransUnion, Equifax and Experian will all issue a free report annually. If you alternate the agencies, you can get a free report every four months. Watch for fraudulent accounts that may have been started in your name and that your debt is reported accurately.
- Check your credit card statement twice monthly online, if not more frequently. Watch for purchases that you didn’t make.
- Shred all credit card statements and any other financial statements you are not keeping. Don’t just tear them up! If you can shred and place the shred in two different garbage bags that’s ideal. Also shred credit card applications and tear off any labels with your name and address.
- Read your insurance statements to be sure that the claims paid match the care you received.
- Consider using a credit monitoring service. Although they can’t stop thieves before the theft, they can discover the theft sooner and help protect you from further loss.
If you’ve had your data stolen.
You have had your identity stolen if someone used your personal information in a way that involves fraud or deception, usually for financial gain. This may mean getting medical care in your name, using your credit card, opening accounts in your name or using your IP address for illegal purposes.
When you discover someone has stolen from you, there are measures that must be taken immediately.
If a credit card was used fraudulently:
- Call the card company immediately and cancel the card. They will issue you a new one to your address. CONFIRM the address where they are sending the new card to ensure it’s going out to you and not to another “you.”
- Call your other card companies and cancel those cards as well. Unless you are sure that only one card number was stolen, it’s much better to be safe than sorry.
- Make a police report at your local police station. They take credit card fraud seriously. It is their responsibility to follow up.
- Notify all three credit agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and order a credit report. Check that report for fraudulent activity.
- Place a hold on your credit report for 90 days.
- Report the theft to the FTC. Use their online complaint form. This isn’t available on a mobile device, but you can call to make the complaint @ 1-877-438- 4338.
- Close any new accounts that were opened in your name (from the credit report).
- Talk with the credit card companies and have any bogus charges removed from the cards.
- Take the necessary steps to correct your credit report.
- Consider adding a credit freeze to your account which freezes the ability of anyone, including you, from opening new accounts, taking out loans or other financial activities.
- Replace any identification that was stolen or used – such as social security cards, driver’s license, etc.
- You may have to contact other financial companies to clear your name including student loan accounts, bank loans, car loans, mortgages, or clear a bankruptcy filed in your name.
- Ensure that your investment accounts were not accessed and speak with them about freezing the account for withdrawals.
- Change any credit card accounts that are currently linked on shopping sites. Although the cards have been canceled, you should also remove the cards from the sites.
- Contact your bank. Although your cards may not be linked directly to a bank card, the bank will be more vigilant in monitoring your accounts.