I think we can all agree that technological innovations have made many aspects of our lives simpler and more efficient.
The Internet, smartphones and iPads have become such a large part of how we communicate and store information that people have started paying big bucks to go to special technology-free resorts in order to take a break from our seemingly constant availability and the unrelenting onslaught of information.
However, as technology makes it easier for us to gain access to such things as sports scores, YouTube videos and Facebook, it also has made it easier for identity theft to take place. Last year the Consumer Sentinel Network, a division of the FTC, received over 2 million complaints – more than half of which were regarding fraud and identity theft.
According to a recent survey conducted by Protiviti, 68% of companies have increased their focus on information security as threats of ‘cyber warfare’ increase each year. 34% of companies report that they either are not prepared or do not know if they are prepared for a data security breach – an unsettling statistic for millions of consumers in the U.S.
You may remember the old commercials for LifeLock, in which CEO Richard Davis would publically advertise his own social security number to show his confidence in his company’s ability to protect customers from identity theft. Ironically, a class action lawsuit filed in 2008 revealed Mr. Davis did in fact suffer such a fate, with one thief using the social security number at a payday lending store and obtaining a $500 loan in Davis’ name.
So how do you prevent identity theft and what do you do in the event your personal information is stolen? Preventative action is always the best type of action.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report every twelve months via a website called AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit report for any suspicious activity is a great way to monitor your financial identity. Reviewing your bank and credit card statements is also a crucial step in ensuring no one has gained unlawful access to your accounts.
It is also important to not disclose your personal information to just anyone or any website; your identity is your responsibility to protect. If you do discover that your accounts have been compromised, it’s imperative to call your bank and credit card companies so the appropriate actions may be taken. By law you are only responsible for up to $50 per credit card for any unauthorized charges.
However, as Richard Davis demonstrated, there is no impenetrable protection from identity theft and we must always be on the lookout in order to protect ourselves as well as our financial future.
Joseph “Big Joe” Clark, whose column is published Sundays, is a certified financial planner. He can be reached at email@example.com, or 640-1524.