Internet Breaches Become Identity Theft

A new article in Network World talks about the transition of data theft from attacks on banks and retailers to attacks on individuals.

In the past, someone would hijack a credit card number and make some purchases using th28h0ogrvthat number.  You would have to replace your card, but once you notify the card company, your financial liability is limited to $50.

With debit cards, the liability is larger, and the time it takes to resolve the incident is longer.

Identity theft started with stealing more information than just a card number and opening accounts at retailers in your name.  If the thief selects merchants with special promotions (e.g., no payments for 90 days), they could do a lot of damage before anyone would notice anything amiss.  You would be liable for the bill or have to prove to a judge that you didn’t open the account.  Proving that you didn’t do something is tricky.  thpvgyxwu3

The next generation in identity theft is filing fake tax returns in your name to get a refund from the Federal government sent to an account that isn’t yours.  Think about it:

  1. When you go to file, if you are already getting a refund, its been sent to someone else.  You have to prove you didn’t get it.
  2. Is the thief’s refund larger than what you were supposed to get?  The IRS is going to ask you for repayment of the money you didn’t get.
  3. The information in the return submitted by the thief is probably wrong.  Are you on the hook for filing a false return?  That’s a crime?
  4. Will the false tax return affect your eligibility for subsidy for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act?
  5. Will the false tax return affect your calculated benefit under Social Security?
  6. How many years of your life are you going to have to spend fixing this mess?


What you need to do

  • If you  have a refund due, file early.  Get there before the crooks do.
  • Retain a legitimate service for helping fix (not just monitor) identity theft issues.
    • Example:  Aflac partners with EZ-Shield at a cost to subscribers of less than $5.00 per year.  It’s a very good deal.
  • Monitor your credit reports.  There are three major services and you can pull a free report from each of them each year.  If you pull one in April, one in August and one in September, that will give you year-round visibility to your reports for no cost.
  • Consider contacting the credit agencies and putting a fraud alert on your account.  That means any merchant asked to open an account in your name will have to call you to verify the request.

Whatever you do, take this seriously.  Identity theft is highly stressful and time consuming, and if you have to retain a lawyer on your own, expensive.  You don’t need it.

Also remember that the targets of theft usually aren’t the rich.  Thieves most often target the young and middle income, you usually are more careless and have fewer protections in place.





Hart, Jason, “Data breaches: This time it’s more personal,” Network World, Sep 20, 2016 11:09 AM PT.

Picture credits:  Pittsfield Police

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