Target Security Breach Puts Spotlight on Identity Theft Prevention

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Across the country, 110 million Target customers are now dealing with the fallout from the security breach in December. Hackers obtained e-mails, name, addresses, phone numbers and PIN numbers for the debit and credit cards. Target has just agreed to provide all of its customers with a year of free credit monitoring. Worse yet, the Department of Homeland Security reported last week that the attack on Target was likely a part of a broader and highly sophisticated scam that potentially affected a large number of retailers, including Neiman Marcus. Apparently, Target’s systems were amazingly primed for hacking- lacking the virtual walls and motion detectors found in secure networks like most banks. Identity theft continues to be on the rise. The good news is that there are actions you can take to protect your identity. We thought it would be a good time to review some of the suggestions we have provided in the past, as well as some new ones:

Digital Security:

  • CHOOSE GOOD PASSWORDS. Make them difficult to decipher. Vary them by account. Don’t store your passwords on your computer.
  • COMPUTER SECURITY: Use anti-malware/spyware and anti-virus programs and keep them up to date.
  • PREVENT PHISHING SCAMS. This is when a thief sends a legitimate-looking email from a company you have an account with and asks you to reply with information or click on a link in the email. Instead, contact the company directly through the website or phone number you would usually use.
  • RESTORE YOUR COMPUTER TO THE FACTORY SETTINGS. When you sell or get rid of your computer, make sure that you have wiped out all information first.
  • SHOPPING ONLINE is safe as long as you are on a secure website. The internet address should start with “https” and have a padlock icon in the lower right hand corner.

At Home:

  • SHRED everything with sensitive information. (This means anything you wouldn’t hand to a total stranger).
  • PROTECT SNAIL MAIL. Consider using e-delivery as much as possible. Consider getting a P.O. box for delivery of mail with sensitive information.
  • TELEPHONE SCAMS: Never give out information to someone who calls you claiming to be from your credit card company, bank, etc. If they are legitimate, they already have that information. Call the company yourself using a phone number from the back of your credit card or bank statement.
  • USE A SAFE for all your important documents including your social security card. Keep your birth certificate, passport and other identifying documents in a bolted-down safe at home and use the hotel safe when you’re travelling. Also consider scanning and moving these documents to a “safe vault” in the cloud, such DWM/Orion.

When Out and About:

  • AVOID “SHOULDER SURFERS”. The person behind you at the ATM or supermarket may be just another shopper or maybe not. Be cautious.
  • WATCH WHAT YOU CARRY. Take only what you need. Change your credit cards to a PIN option only, if possible.
  • CARRY YOUR WALLET in your front pocket or your purse in front of you to reduce the likely-hood of pick-pocketing.

Other:

  • CREDIT FILES can be protected by placing a security freeze on your credit reports. When a freeze is set at all three credit bureaus, a thief cannot open a new account because the potential creditor will not be able to check the credit file. When you need to apply for credit, you can lift the freeze temporarily. See: www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, and www.transunion.com.
  • Order a free credit report through www.AnnualCreditReport.com from one of the three agencies every four months. You are entitled to one free copy a year from each agency, so you can rotate your requests.
  • MONITOR YOUR CREDIT CARD AND BANK ACCOUNT ACTIVITY. Most credit card companies and banks have a smart app that allows you to monitor your activity. It’s a good idea to check it every few days. If there is a fraudulent purchase, you’ll catch it quickly.
  • PAY FOR AN OUTSIDE MONITORING SERVICE. Both Target and the State of SC (when tax files were breached 15 months ago) provided a year free service with Protectmyid.com (now part of Experian). The service typically costs $16 per month. It monitors your credit and notifies you of new accounts or applications for credit. It includes $1million identity theft insurance- however, this is limited in scope and primarily pays for incidental expenses, not monetary loss. The only loss covered is if funds are electronically transferred from your account.

These days, risk management includes much more than simply sufficient life insurance or auto insurance. It needs to include a program to safeguard your most important asset- your identity. Please give us a call at DWM, if we can help in any way.