Thursday, February 5, 2015

Protecting yourself and dealing with identity theft

It was announced today that the second largest health insurance company, Anthem Inc, was hacked, compromising the records of 80 million people. While the exact number affected by the breach is still unknown, there are still plenty of  people who should worry.

The attack comes on the heel of computer hacks suffered by retailers such as Target and Home Depot over the past year. Such attacks can lead to identity theft as private information stored in the hardware of computers is now up for grabs by vicious intruders.

Hacking is not uncommon these days, which is why consumers should take several precautionary measures to protect their identity:

1. Identify yourselves with the link you use for online banking or purchasing. Many times, hackers will imitate a website so visitors can't tell it apart for the initial site, prompting users to login to a site that carries personal data. If the URL extension you're visiting looks off, chances are you're about to log into a contaminated site.

2. Change your passwords frequently and don't use common phrases, or any combination that includes your private data. Keep your passwords complicated enough that they can't be easily determined and store them in a safe place on your phone to stay accessible.

3. Be vigilant when keying in passwords or pin numbers in public, including at ATM machines. A four-digit pin can lead hackers to your financial possessions.

4. Never offer your login or personal information to anyone over the phone or online. Financial institutions or government agencies will never request that type of information over a communication medium.

5. Check your credit report every year for any unfamiliar activity. If you don't recognize a credit card or history of nonpayment on your report, challenge it. You can also enroll in anti-theft services offered by the credit bureaus to protect your financial history, such as credit freezes and identity theft alerts.

If your personal data has been compromised, the Federal Trade Commission recommends you take the following steps:

1. Place a freeze on your credit by contacting the credit bureaus. Also notify your banks and credit card companies about the breach.

2. Create an Identity Theft Report and submit it to the FTC. Keep a copy handy for your personal use.

3. File a police report and bring a copy of the Identity Theft Report along with you to attach to the police report.

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