Consumer Alert: Identity protection is largely up to consumers. Here’s how to protect your money

Consumer Alert: Identity Theft

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Imagine this scenario. You log into your bank account and learn your balance is zero. All your money has been stolen. All too often, that’s the case for victims of identity theft. It’s really not a matter of *if* our data will be stolen; it’s *when*.

I already know my personal information has been compromised. I was one of the 145 million Americans whose data was stolen in the 2017 Equifax data breach. So, I immediately took a number of proactive steps that remain in place today.

Here’s why that’s so important. According to records compiled by the University of Delaware, during January through July of 2023 there almost 700 publicly disclosed data breaches and more than 612 million records were exposed.  Protecting ourselves is largely up to us. 

According to an article, I read today in the Harvard Business Review, both small and large businesses are at risk, and the private sector simply isn’t doing enough.

On Tuesday, the New York attorney general’s office announced its suing Citiban, in part because a lawsuit says its cybersecurity measures are so sloppy. AAA says consumers must take proactive steps to protect your money.

“Freezing your credit report allows you to set up a scenario where anyone who inquires about your credit report and tries to take out a line of credit in your name or secure a line of credit in your name – it might be for a car or a house or any number of things – cannot do that because your credit is frozen at that point. And again, that is with all three credit agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion,” said Mark Gruba, communications specialist for AAA.

With the help of AAA, here’s Deanna’s Do List for protecting your money.

  • Freeze your credit with all three bureaus.
  • Monitor your credit report with all three bureaus. You can now get a report once a week for free.
  • Create strong passwords for your accounts. It’s helpful if you use a good password manager like Bitwarden which is free or one password which is $3 a month.
  • Use two-factor authentication.  I use an authenticator app which makes two factor easy authentication easy.
  • Never use public Wi-Fi when making any financial transaction.

I’ve had my credit frozen since the Equifax breach. Some folks worry about the hassle of doing it because it requires you to thaw your credit before you can open a new account. But now federal law mandates that if you thaw your credit online or by phone, the bureaus must do it within an hour. You also may want to consider a credit monitoring service. AAA has a monitoring service called ProtectMYID that’s free to members. Click here for CNBC’s analysis of the best credit monitoring services.