Michael Roberts, the founder of www.howsafeareyou.org, says a lot of people do not realize that their information is breached and that they are at risk identity theft and financial fraud.
Roberts – who started his website to feature new security products -- recommends that consumers take the following steps to protect their identity:
- Get your credit report and analyze it for any suspicious activity; pay attention to any accounts or inquiries that were not initiated by you.
- If you've discovered that your credit was used fraudulently, freeze your account until you can determine the extent of the breach.
- Contact the credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your file. This will last for three months, and then you can determine whether to renew it. The fraud alert will force companies that seek to extend credit toward you to perform a more detailed verification process than usual.
- Notify the companies that you currently have accounts with that your identity has been stolen. You may need to have new cards issued and you may want to have them block transactions automatically that are out of your geographic region. This will help to flag suspicious activity.
- Change all your passwords and user names. Do not access any of your financial records online without your information and privacy encrypted.
Perhaps his last tip is his most important – encryption via a personal VPN is critical to outsmarting hackers and online identity thieves!
Also, Roberts thinks "it's amazing” how many people who are victims do not file a police report, since failing to take this step makes it more difficult to dispute the privacy breach.
In addition, check out this video we’ve created that is a step-by-step explanation of how hacking happens. It explains the ramifications beyond financial data theft and explores issues like “social media hacking” or when you or your friends’ Facebook or email accounts get hacked. Most of all, it reminds you to stay safe in wireless hotspots.