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In the big bad world of data breaches, there are three types that everyone should be aware of so they can properly monitor their information: Physical Breaches, Skimming Breaches and Cyber-Crime Breaches.
Physical Data Breaches: Physical breaches occur when someone steals hard data like credit cards, personal checks, files, mail or trash that contains personal information like credit card numbers and social security numbers. Physical breaches also occur when someone steals a mobile device or a laptop containing personal information. Physical breaches are responsible for over 20 percent of all major data breaches and 50 percent of all medical fraud breaches.
Skimming Data Breaches: Skimming is credit card fraud that takes place when the information contained on a debit or credit card's magnetic strip is stolen. This information includes the card's account number, expiration date, PIN and other sensitive data. Thieves can use this information to make unauthorized purchases, obtain cash advances and access additional information that's used to steal someone's identity. Credit card information can be stolen by anyone with a small skimming device who is holding your card. Personal information can also be obtained from card readers at ATMs and gas stations that have been rigged by thieves to steal information.
Cyber-Crime Data Breaches: These are the most common data breaches. They occur when hackers, viruses, malware and web applications penetrate the data bases of large companies to obtain confidential information about customers. Cyber-attacks can involve stealing information that's shared online via secure networks, or they can involve taking control of a company's credit card readers to access customers' personal information. The large-scale cyber-crime data breaches at eBay, Sony, Anthem and Home Depot are just a few examples.
Almost everyone is vulnerable to data breaches that open the door to fraud and identity theft. Recent cyber-crime data breaches at Target and Adobe Systems alone have compromised the personal information of nearly 200 million people. Even the comparatively small data breach at MacRumours forum put more than 800,000 users' records at risk.
You can (and should) do everything possible to protect your identify. Here are some basic tips to help keep your personal information safe:
Shred all trash containing personal information
Check your credit reports regularly
Set up online transaction alerts with your bank and credit card companies
Go paperless with your accounts
Use online bill-pay services
Don't share personal information in response to emails or with callers you don't know
Install antivirus and anti-spyware software, and scan your computer regularly
Sign up with an identity theft protection service
Identity theft protection services can help you to keep your identity and personal information safe from predators. Common features of these plans include:
Access to your credit reports and credit score
24/7 credit report and credit score monitoring
Social security number, bank account and credit card monitoring
Black market personal information surveillance
Lost wallet protection
Social media monitoring
Identity theft insurance
It's important to review the different plans thoroughly to find one that will best serve your needs. With an identity theft protection plan in place, you'll have the peace of mind that comes with knowing you're doing everything possible to keep you and your family safe.