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Why You Should Get a Security Freeze before Your Information is Stolen
A never ending stream of news reports about data breaches – including T-Mobile, Target
Corporation, the IRS, numerous Blue Cross Blue Shield and other health plans, the University of
Maryland, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) - is a constant reminder that
you’re at risk of a data breach and therefore, identity theft if you:
- Shop with credit or debit cards;
- Pay taxes;
- Have health insurance;
- Attend college;
- Patronize any business that keeps customer records; or,
- Work for the government or a company
These constant breaches reveal what’s wrong with data security and data breach response.
Agencies and companies hold too much information for too long and don't protect it
adequately. Then, they might wait months or even years before informing victims. Then, they
make things worse by offering weak, short-term help such as credit monitoring services.
The first defense against any kind of identity theft is to be vigilant about protecting your
personal information by taking steps like creating secure passwords, installing anti-virus and
anti-malware software, and shredding personal documents. (See Appendix A for more tips on
protecting your personal information.) However, if and when someone does steal enough of
your information to commit identity theft, there is really only one type that you can stop
before it happens: New account identity theft, where someone opens a new account in your
name. All other types of identity theft and fraud, at best, can only be detected after the fact.
Unfortunately, the services and steps that are most offered and recommended to consumers
are the ones that only detect identity theft or fraud but don’t stop it.
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