Identity theft is the one of the most common consumer crimes in America, affecting over 15 million people a year. A CNBC report revealed that identity theft causes consumers over $16 billion in damages a year.
It’s easy to overlook the threat of identity theft when you’re unaffected, but the “it won’t happen to me” mentality can lead to a dangerous and costly mistake. In reality, many people are affected by identity theft even when they are taking the necessary precautions.
Whether you are the victim of a phishing scam, data breach, or mere bad luck, there are many ways sensitive personal information can be compromised without any fault of your own. Consider these identity theft cautionary tales, not because you should live in fear, but to understand the magnitude of identity theft on the everyday consumer and how to prevent it.
The popular fast-food restaurant made headlines after experiencing a major data breach early last year which compromised over 300,000 individual’s credit and debit card information. Cash registers at corporately-owned Arby’s were infected with a malware virus which saved customer financial information after every purchase. That sensitive information went to remote hackers.
Arby’s is a prominent example of the all-too-common issue of data breaches. Data breaches are more frequent than ever and a very common threat to consumer identities. In 2017 alone, there were 1,120 total data breaches and more than 171 million records were exposed.
Gmail, which has over one billion active users, recently fell victim to a phishing scam. Phishing is a common security breach in which people are tricked into releasing sensitive information. This type of crime comes in many forms, but most commonly, and in the case of Gmail, phishers will disguise themselves as reputable sources and request personal information from unsuspecting individuals.
In spring 2017, Gmail scammers requested Drive access under the guise of a trusted contact and then stole victims’ identities. After only an hour of criminal activity, Gmail put a swift end to the phishing scam, but only after around one million users were already affected.
Uber is the most popular ride-sharing app in 108 countries, but that does not mean it is immune to fraud. Late last year Uber revealed they experienced a breach that may have compromised 57 million users and drivers.
Hackers reportedly broke into the Uber’s Github portal — a program engineers use to collaborate on code — and stole consumer data that was stored there. Famously, Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to keep the breach secret. After the incident was leaked the company received severe consumer backlash for the breach and attempted cover-up.
How to protect your identity
So, what does this all amount to? Should we all just relent to identity thieves? Well, not exactly, but that is what the crooks want you to think. In reality, there are plenty of proactive measures you can take to protect your identity, many of which begin with your credit report.
Your FICO score is a history of all spending done under your name, whether legitimate or not. Keep an eye on your credit report and be on the lookout for any unusual activity such as unfamiliar inquiries or new accounts. If you see a surprising and significant change in your score then you might be a victim of identity theft.
In the wake of a year marked by identity theft, consider professional credit repair. Lexington Law is backed by over 20 years of consumer service and stands as a leader in the credit repair industry. If your credit report is bogged down by false or misleading report items, contact Lexington Law today.