You probably already know that since 2017 major data breaches resulted in more than 1.4 billion compromised, sensitive data files. Potentially all of us are at risk of identity theft from our personal information sitting out there on the Dark Web waiting for the right buyer to come along.
Since we cannot know exactly what we are up against, security experts advise some stop-gap measures to protect ourselves. Here are a few of the more prevalent ones.
Stop using compromised passwords:
There have been numerous high-profile data breaches involving popular websites and online services that have likely exposed your accounts. Your user name and password may show up on combination lists or large data files that are floating around the Dark Web that criminals covet.
Hackers use this information to try to gain access to your other accounts. According to the Consumer Protection Agency, a large number of password protected account holders fail to change their passwords, even after learning of a breach that affected their accounts. Criminals will take advantage of the fact that people hate resetting passwords and do not do it, even after they learn of a data breach.
Credit authorities advise setting strong passwords or using a password generator and updating frequently. Never share passwords between accounts or re-use old ones, especially in situations where you want to protect sensitive information like your bank account, health insurance information, tax software, and email. Remember, what is convenient for us is easy for the hacker.
If you do not recognize a password or remember where else you used it, start by making sure you have different passwords for each of your accounts containing sensitive information. The complexity of your password predicts the level of security it can provide. So make it strong.
Freeze your credit report:
If someone has your personal information, they might try to apply for new credit or a lease in your name. Placing a lock or freeze on your credit report could prevent that from happening. It is the most proactive step you can take toward preventing ID theft.
Review your Credit Report:
Unfamiliar accounts or inquiry activity on your credit report could be a red flag for identity theft. Annually, you can request a free copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Follow the link or type the URL into your web browser https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Beware of look-a-like sites that could take you to a phishing page to steal your identity.
Learn more about how to protect yourself from identity theft. If you suspect you have become a victim, file a report with your local law enforcement and alert each of the three credit bureaus of the possible identity theft.
Call the Pima County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers with information about scams and frauds. To contact the Scam Squad directly, 9 am to noon Monday through Friday, call (520) 351-6715, or email: email@example.com. To report suspicious activity or a particular incident of fraud (which is a scam involving a loss of money) call (520) 351-4900.
If you are interested in becoming a Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for an application or call (520) 351-6746.