Did you know you can buy Social Security numbers (SSNs) online? It’s legal to do so in most cases, and pretty much anyone who has an internet connection can make a purchase. Information brokers or data brokers, as they are known, sell this information in the form of background checks. In some instances, the SSN needs to be provided to get the background check; in other instances, the SSN is available as part of an information package. There are plenty of legitimate reasons one would have to procure this information.
Recently, researchers discovered a few of the major data brokers had been breached in a way that allowed criminal hackers to install malware that allowed them through the back door of the data brokers’ servers. As a result, these same hackers set up their own website reselling the hacked data. The customers of the hacked data, it seems, are identity thieves—many of them organized criminals using the data for various scams and to open new lines of credit or take over existing lines of credit.
CNET reports, “The service’s customers have, the report said, ‘spent hundreds of thousands of dollars looking up SSNs, birthdays, driver’s license records, and obtaining unauthorized credit and background reports on more than four million Americans.’”
This goes to show you that some of the largest companies on the planet that spend the most amount of money on security and have the most to lose are hackable…which means you and I are even softer targets, and our identities are at risk everywhere.
You can’t rely on your government or corporations to protect your identity. It is essential you take proactive action and do it yourself. There are two approaches that work best when done together. I do both; you should too:
- Get a credit freeze. Search “credit freeze,” then individually visit each credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) and follow their process for a credit freeze.
- Invest in identity theft protection. It’s not enough just to get a credit freeze. There are many times when your credit won’t be frozen, and when your data is used to either open new accounts or take over existing accounts—and depending on the identity theft protection service, you will be assisted to mitigate any fraud.