Identity theft can happen to anyone. Since more people are going online to shop, bank, file taxes, ect., there's an increased risk of savvy thieves stealing the personal information of millions of consumers. Even if you're careful, a thief may be able to attain your personal information by hacking into the systems of larger businesses, as millions of people learned last year with the Equifax data breach. Cyber breaches increased to 1,093 in 2016, up from 780 in 2015, with most of these breaches impacting the medical/health care organizations, educations and government/military sectors. As of October 2017, there were 1,056 breaches reported, which exposed more than 171 million records. According to experts, stolen information can sell for more then $30 per identity on the black market. However, in time and frustration alone, it'll cost a victim much more then that. Stolen information allows thieves to open bank accounts and lines of credit, open new credit cards, get a driver's license in your name, file taxes to steal your tax refund and more. What can you do if you find out your information has been compromised?
What to do if you're the victim of a data breach:
As we've seen, you may not know that you're the victim of a data breach until you hear about it in the news. The first thing you should do if you suspect you're a victim is to check all your credit reports- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion- by getting a free credit report here. If you've already accessed your credit report this year, you may have to pay a fee.
Next, monitor your credit card and bank accounts for unauthorized activity and review each charge carefully. If you find or suspect you're a victim of fraudulent activity, put a freeze on your credit file. This makes it more difficult for a thief to use your info to open a new account in your name'; however, it won't prevent them from making charges to your current credit accounts. The freeze lasts until you remove it; however in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and South Dakota the freeze lasts seven years.
You may also place a fraud alert on your credit file to warn creditors that your identity was stolen. This will prompt them to verify the identity of anyone looking to get credit in your name.
Additionally, file your taxes early to prevent a scammer from filing for you and collecting your refund.