Unless you’ve been living on a desert island for the past 5 years you’re probably familiar with the some of the high profile data breaches that seem to happen with startling regularity. Even so, I’d almost bet the farm that there are considerably more data breaches that you haven’t heard about.
Sure, we all know about Target, Equifax, Home Depot, and Anthem breaches primarily because of their media coverage. But did you know about MyFitnessPal, Panera Bread, Lord & Taylor, Marriott, Walmart, Dollar General, and Bed Bath & Beyond? All of their breaches occurred in 2018, in the last few months. And, the MyFitnessPal breach was larger than the Equifax breach, plus now everyone knows what you eat and how much weight you’ve lost!
The real question you’re probably asking is why in the world are there so many breaches? There are several answers to that question.
1. The information is highly valuable and, thus, is constantly being targeted. Hacking is the new breaking and entering. And your personal identification information (Pii) is the golden ticket. Think about this from the fraudster’s ROI perspective (Return on Investment). Isn’t it easier and safer for me to open a new credit card in your name and use it to buy a television than it is for me to break into your house and physically steal your TV? Your Pii is essentially the crown jewels for credit fraudsters. Name, address, DOB and SSN…that’s all I need in order to apply for credit in your name.
2. It’s clear the data is not secure enough and hackers are smart. I don’t want to go all tech geek on you, but if you can show me a truly secure server, network, phone line, internet connection, or mailbox I’ll be the first in line to buy it. Long story short…you can’t, because it doesn’t exist. Employee error, inside jobs, a lack of training or knowledge, and negligence can be blamed for almost all successful breaches. And please consider this, breaches are crimes being committed by criminals so your anger should be directed accordingly.
3. Your data is in too many places to truly protect it 24/7/365. Last year, I started compiling a list of external parties that have my Pii in their possession. My accountant, primary care physician, dentist, former employers, my clients, hotel chains, airlines, rental car chains…I stopped after the list became 3 pages long. And you’re partially to blame as well. How many of you have your DOB on Facebook? I can find your address using Google and I already know your name. That just leaves your SSN missing and then I can apply for credit in your name. Stop giving out your personal information!
What Can I Do?
First off, accept the fact that not only is your information already “out there” for all to see but it’s likely your data has already been compromised in any number of breaches. If you really care about protecting your credit identity from hackers then you have to place a security freeze on all three of your credit reports. This will prevent any new credit from being issued in your name and will also prevent new lenders from being able to access your credit reports or credit scores.
John Ulzheimer is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, and identity theft. He has written four books on the topic and has been interviewed and quoted thousands of times over the past 15 years. Formerly of Equifax and FICO, Ulzheimer, who appears regularly on national news networks, is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has been an expert witness in over 300 credit related lawsuits and has been qualified to testify in both federal and state courts on the topic of consumer credit.