How shopping for a cell phone can lead to identity theft

Rachel WinslowCyber Security, Homeowners Insurance, private client group insurance

We all know that acquiring the latest and greatest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S comes with a price, but in the case of 15 million consumers, it also came with the now real threat of serious identity theft.

The New York Times recently reported that hackers stole data of T-Mobile customers from the credit reporting bureau Experian, one of the “big three” data conglomerates that has files on nearly all of us.

The wide-ranging breach affects customers and those who provided information but never actually became customers, from Sept. 1, 2013, to last month. Hackers stole Social Security numbers, home addresses, birthdates, and other personal information.

Now, those who innocently shopped for a cell phone two or three years ago (or even just a few weeks ago!) have to worry about things like false tax returns and loan applications filed in their name.

Scary, and becoming all too common. Remember Target’s 40 million customer data breach in 2013?

Fittingly, October is Cyber Liability Month, which is a good time to think about how protect yourself. You can’t control the security practices of every company you do business with, but you can take steps to minimize the damage if you are one of the unfortunate few caught up in a breach.

Watch for it — Don’t ignore odd mail from financial institutions you don’t recognize. It might be a sales pitch, but it might be correspondence about “your” new loan. On the flip side, if financial mail you are supposed to receive suddenly stops, it could be a sign of a fraudulent change of address.

Know your credit — You can get a free credit report once a year from the “big three” bureaus (Experian, Equifax, Trans Union) at www.annualcreditreport.com. Continually monitor by marking your calendar to pull a report from just ONE of them every four months (Jan. 1, May 1, Sept. 1). Certain credit cards will provide you with your actual credit score for free, which is valuable if you’re loan shopping. But to guard against identity theft, you need to be proactive and check the reports themselves for fraudulent accounts. Even if the thief is paying on time, you don’t want anybody piggybacking on your good credit.

If you’re a victim — First, don’t panic. Notify the “big three” and insist a “fraud alert” warning be added to your record. Document all fraudulent activity and share with the bureaus. Get in touch with us to discuss how your homeowner’s insurance will provide coverage that will help you.

Though homeowner’s policies do include identity theft coverage, everybody’s needs are different, so talk to us today to make sure you have the right coverage in place.

Rachel Winslow

rwinslow@srfm.com

Rachel Winslow: Commercial Lines Account Manager