After the credit reporting company Equifax revealed that hackers had allegedly stolen massive amounts of personal information from their database of nearly 143 million Americans, many people are wondering how to know if they're at risk of identity theft. It's a good question to ask. Even if you've confirmed that you weren't one of the people hit by the massive security breach at Equifax, it's worth knowing the likelihood of your identity getting stolen, as some people are more vulnerable to the threat than others.
You can find if your information was compromised in the attack by using the cost-free Trusted ID Premier business option offered by Equifax. Hopefully, your privacy is intact and the criminals failed to reach you. But in the case that you were exposed to the security breach, you should monitor your financial activity and freeze your credit.
Equifax has a guide on figuring out if you're one of the people vulnerable to a security violation. It's a frequently discussed subject, and for a good reason. Considering the fact that we live in an increasingly and overwhelmingly virtual world — we conduct an outstanding majority of our personal and professional business on the world wide web — knowing if you're at risk of identity theft isn't merely an option. It's crucial for the security of your identity and your finances.
First things first, there is a difference between card theft and identity theft, with the only commonality that both things are terrible and stressful for the person undergoing either. Card theft is when someone who isn't you uses your credit card number without your permission for consumer goods. Identity theft is when someone gains access to your Social Security number or your mother's maiden name or the date of your birth and uses that highly personal and private information to feign that they are you.
According to the identity theft protection security company, LifeLock, you are more likely to experience identity theft if you are a millennial, recently separated, newly married, a new parent, or a new homeowner. The company provides statistical evidence to substantiate their findings. Affluent people, such as those earning more than $100,000 a year, tend to experience identity theft more frequently, according to LifeLock.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from LifeLock's study is about user behavior. More often than not, it isn't a massive security breach like Equifax's that exposes users to the unethical activities of identity thieves; it's often how we jeopardize our identities by excessive online sharing habits.
Since many of us shop, sell, and subscribe to services online, we frequently forget that not every transaction or exchange necessitates the divulging of our personal information. In fact, very few activities require your Social Security number or your date of birth. So whenever someone asks for your Social Security number, your mother's name, or when you were born, ask yourself why they would need this information in the first place.
Little acts of caution can help in the long run. Plus, keep an eye on your credit reports, try to avoid presence on unprotected wireless networks, use an internet browser's incognito mode for roaming the Internet, and be creative and private about your passwords. Adding "123" to the end of your surname isn't exactly the best way to protect your online accounts.
The best advice to follow after seeing whether you are one of the groups likely to face identity theft is to be proactive in protecting your identity online. No one else will do it for you. While companies like Equifax are supposed to establish and maintain strict and foolproof security systems that carry no vulnerabilities, users themselves need to practice prudence when it comes to sharing their information online. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
This article has been updated.