5 Things Worse Than the Equifax Data Breach
Some of your own behaviors might be putting you at risk for identity theft
Yes, it's scary to hear that all of your vital personal information may have been compromised in the latest major data breach involving the credit bureau, Equifax. However, you're in the same boat at 143 million other Americans, and it's unlikely that every one of you will have your identities stolen as a result. In fact, chances are, other behaviors you engage in all the time are just as likely to turn you into a fraud or identity theft victim.
Here are a few of them:
1. Letting mail pile up in your mailbox
Yes, there are still thieves who do low-tech dumpster-diving to try to steal your personal information–especially credit card and other financial applications. If you're going out of town for a few days, it's best to put a temporary stop on your mail, or ask a trusted neighbor to bring it in for you. Along those lines, don't toss unopened pre-approved credit applications in your trash–shred them instead.
2. Using public WiFi to check your bank account balance
Any time you're not on a secure network, there is a possibility that someone might be able to hack into your device. Anything important is best done when you're on your home WiFi. And, when you are out and about, consider downloading a VPN (virtual personal network) app, which provides a layer of security to protect your information.
3. Falling for an IRS (or other) phone call scam
No, the IRS will not call you out of the blue and ask you to confirm your Social Security number or demand payment over the phone. If you ever get a call along those lines, it's a scam. The same goes for anyone claiming to call from your bank. When it doubt, hang up and call the banking institution or credit issuer directly to see if it was actually them trying to reach you.
4. Leaving your devices lying around without password protection
Even in your own home, don't make it so easy for someone to access your personal information. From your teenager's friends to a handyman who's doing work around the house, you never know who might be tempted to see what personal and financial information is just a mouse click or tap away.
5. Using the same password for all of your online accounts
In fact, all someone needs is your email password to wreak identity theft havoc. Once they can access your email, they will likely see emails from your banks and creditors. From there, they can log on, click the "forgot password" link, and log in as you once it's reset. To better protect yourself, use a different, super long, and confusing password for each of your major accounts including your banks, credit cards, email, and social media accounts.
Although the Equifax breach is frightening, if it helped spark an interest in more people proactively protecting their identities, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing.