1/7/2011 2:35 PM ET|
How thieves will steal your identity
Complicating matters is the trend toward making medical records electronic, if providers don't take sufficient care to make sure the data is secure, Van Dyke says.
Protect yourself by:
- Checking every "explanation of benefits" form you get from your insurer to make sure you recognize the provider and the treatment.
- Ask for a year-end "list of benefits" from your insurer, in case a scam artist has changed your address and the EOB forms have gone missing.
- Be stingy with your Social Security number. Most providers ask for it because it makes collecting on past-due accounts easier, not because it's necessary for insurance coverage or treatment.
Prediction No. 4: You'll be the victim of a database breach, and you won't take it seriously enough.
Privacy advocates cheered when states began forcing companies, governments and other entities to reveal database breaches where people's personal information was compromised. No longer could these threats to our security be covered up or dismissed as unimportant, and identity theft victims -- who often don't know how their information was stolen -- would have a better idea of how they were compromised and could demand redress.
Well, that was the theory. Part of the reality is that reports of database breaches have become so common -- more than 510 million records have been reported as breached since 2005, when the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse started keeping track -- that too many people tune them out.
Many people who get a letter informing them their information has been compromised take no action, Van Dyke notes, even though they're four times more likely to become an identity theft victim than the general population.
"It's like they think just because they got the letter, some benevolent Big Brother is looking out for them," Van Dyke says. "Really, they should be afraid."
If you are notified your information has been compromised, you should:
- Put fraud alerts on your credit reports at all three bureaus. Equifax's fraud department can be reached at: 1-888-766-0008, Experian fraud department is at 1-888- EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742), and TransUnion's fraud department is at 1-800-680-7289.
- Consider freezing your credit reports (also known as a security freeze). You can learn more at the Consumers Union site DefendYourDollars.org.
- Set up account alerts with all bank and credit accounts so you're notified of unusual activity.
- Continue monitoring your credit reports for fraudulent activity. You can one free annual look at each from AnnualCreditReport.com. After that, you can buy reports directly from the bureaus or pay for credit monitoring.
Prediction No. 5: You'll get sloppy about the basic protections.
You'll use a public Wi-Fi to check your bank account or fail to password-protect your home's wireless network. You'll be yawping on your cell phone and reveal personal information. You'll forget to update your anti-virus or anti-spyware software. You won't turn on the firewall on your home computer, or you'll remember that but forget the one for your laptop. You won't put a password on your smart phone so that if it's stolen, the thief will have access to a wealth of data.
And you'll use the same old weak password for every account -- your kid's name, or your dog's -- because you can't be bothered to think up new ones or even change it once in a while.
The site Lifehacker recently put up a fairly comprehensive guide to boosting your security. Check it out, particularly the link to the column "How I'd hack your weak passwords." Protect yourself now, before you have to learn the hard way how much chaos an identity thief can wreak in your life.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Let me put it to you this way, how many people are on payroll. The key to any unhappy situation is prevention. people aren't interested in prevention, they're only interested in a pat on the back via recognition, awards, popularity contests. i mean our local news here in my state reports petty theft amongst law enforcement for crying out loud. there is no meaning to valor, honor or integrity not even for myself although some will tell you i'm not as bad as some other people. although many bsers will freely and loosely preach about values like honor and integrity and make others feel guilty for being less than perfect. no wonder we can't get anything done in this country including protection of individual citizens. if you say that game of social politics has nothing to do with what's tying up progress in this country, you're a fool. it's a classic tale of good vs. evil. ever wonder why we still have crime and bad things keep occuring. good has not won. evil prevails and is still winning. i passed by a church sign that said evil prevails when good men do nothing. and that sums it all up. no one has done anything about what's wrong nor has anyone rectified those wrongs that have occured. there's a lot talk about what should be done. sometimes by the bad guys themselves. which is elusive and frustrating. wha'ts an ordinary citizen to do? there's a lot of people going through the motion of things and giving themselves and their projects fancy titles to give us the false idea that they are actually doing anything about anything. try giving them suggestion or constructive criticisms and you either get the standard thank your for your input followed by inaction or you get a fistful on nonsense talk and angry paranoid tirades. let us not forget to give credit to the fact that sometimes the bad guys dress themselves up in sheep's clothing. has anyone given thought to that idea? probably not. complacency. Idleness, it's the devil's workshop. Ever wonder why we have more problems, inaction, neglected duties vs. progress, responsible behavior and real meaningful results.
Until the general public gets over its apathetic state of mind and realizes that it is unhappy and have been living in a dump land and not a Tide commercial, they'll understand how we've been all ripping each other off. the safest statement that can ever and was ever said. thank you.
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
RECENT ARTICLES ON IDENTITY THEFT
Do you have $669 handy to pay for back-to-school supplies? If not, we've got 15 tips for you.