It has gotten to the point where we can barely keep up with all the data security breaches. We are no longer surprised to hear that another data breach exposed the sensitive personal information exposed of thousands (or millions!) of people. What’s worse is that many of us are no longer concerned. We have become complacent.
Taking a callous attitude toward data breaches can be risky. Just because data breaches are more common doesn’t make them less harmful. According to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research, 15.4 million U.S. consumers had $16 billion stolen in 2016. Identity thieves have stolen nearly $110 billion in the past six years.
Things got worse in July 2017, when Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, discovered a massive data breach that could impact approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Equifax reports that the exposed information:
- Social security numbers;
- Birth dates;
- Driver’s license numbers; and
- Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers.
How significant is this? According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you have a credit report, there is a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers who had their sensitive personal information exposed. If so, the FTC recommends taking the following protective measures.
- Check your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies (including Equifax). You can do this for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name, but it won’t prevent a thief from making charges to existing accounts.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. This warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- Monitor credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- File your taxes early, so an identity thieve uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Taking measures to protect against identity theft are important, but they’re not always enough. That’s why you should consider insurance that is specifically designed to protect both individuals and businesses against identity thieves and hackers. For example, identity theft coverage can help individuals cover the cost of clearing their name. Cyber Liability and Security Breach (Cyber Perils) coverage can protect businesses against various cyber threats, including the cost of complying with data breach notice laws.
Please contact us if you would like more information about insurance specifically designed to protect against identity theft.
Additional information is also available in our weekly Risk Management Newsletters.