Data breaches are nothing new and they keep occurring. Buckle up, and let’s review what’s happened recently.
Capital One Breach
This week, we learned that the financial company Capital One has been hacked. The personal information (including birthday, income, and other application data) of 100 million Americans, both individuals and small businesses, has been compromised. Anyone who has applied for a Capital One credit card since 2005 is at risk. Capital One says that they will notify those impacted by the hack and victims will receive free credit monitoring and identity protection. The suspect responsible for the breach has been detained by the FBI.
This comes on the heels of last week’s news that Equifax, who had a massive data breach in 2017, has agreed to pay $700 million in fines. Consumers are eligible to receive free credit monitoring or $125 in compensation. However, since only $31 million of the settlement will be allocated for consumers who opt for a payout, it’s unknown how much individuals will actually receive given 150 million Americans were affected. Given the high response already, the FTC has advised Americans to opt for free credit reporting instead of the payout, as there’s not enough funding for every claimant to receive $125. Consumers have until 1/22/2020 to file a claim with Equifax on their settlement website.
The amount of Equifax’s fine is record-breaking in the US. Experts had hoped that the massive breach and resulting public outrage would be a wake-up call to corporations and spur them to take cyber security seriously. However, two years later, many consider the punishment to be too light. The fine is only about 20% of the company’s 2018 annual revenue. Additionally, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau decided not to continue investigating the company and nothing came from lawmakers formally questioning the company. Equifax’s chief executive was even permitted to retire instead of being fired, and he kept a pension that amounts to more than $90 million. Lastly, since only part of the fine is going to the 150 million victims, it amounts to only $2-3 per person. That’s a negligible slap on the wrist given that people did indeed have their identities compromised as a result of this breach.
Where do we go from here?
As long as companies continue to consume our personal data and as long as lawmakers refuse to adequately protect consumers, our personal data is not safe. Companies need to hold themselves responsible and be held accountable for the information they collect and store. Until that happens, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
1) Sign up for a monitoring service. There are credit monitoring services and identity monitoring services.
- Credit monitoring tracks activity on your credit reports through the credit bureaus. You’ll be alerted when a new account is opened in your name, when there is a legal judgment, when your credit limit changes, and for a variety of other credit-related activities.
- Identity monitoring tracks activity related to your personal information, like usage of your passport information or social security number. You’ll be notified when your personal information shows up on court records, check cashing requests, or orders for new utilities. There are many services available although some recommend tracking this kind of information yourself unless you know for sure that your information has been compromised.
2) Place a credit freeze on your credit. The three major credit bureaus will place a FREE security freeze on your files. This prevents anyone from accessing your credit report information, which usually stops criminals from opening accounts in your name. To set up a freeze, contact each one of the bureaus and provide them with your name, address, social security number, and birth date. You’ll be given a PIN that you’ll need to use whenever your credit has to be momentarily unfrozen, such as when applying for new loan. Most experts believe this is the best way to prevent identity theft.
Note: You can both freeze your credit and sign up for monitoring services as long as you sign for the monitoring first. This is necessary for the monitoring service to gain access to your credit info.
This is why DataSafe takes our business and the security of clients so seriously. We’re not just getting rid of papers and files. We’re keeping you safe. We understand how important your personal information is. If we can help you shred, you know how to reach us.