More and more massive data breaches have become a part of everyday life. Breaches such as recently occurred at Anthem and in the past few years affected Target, Home Depot and many other companies affect just about everyone. Sometimes the data breaches, such as occurred with Target only affect credit card information, but other data breaches, such as the recent Anthem data breach result in much personal information being stolen which can then be used to turn the person whose information has been stolen into a victim of identity theft. Recently a number of class actions on behalf of the victims of these data breaches have been filed against the breached companies for failing to use proper security measures. Recently the Federal District Court for Southern Texas dismissed a class action brought by Beverly Peters on behalf of herself and others whose information had been compromised following a February 2014 data breach affecting 405,000 employees and patients of the St. Joseph Health System, a Texas hospital and health clinic company. The class action was dismissed by the court because as of the date of the court hearing there was no evidence that any of the people affected had become victims of identity theft.
The problem with this decision is that in many instances, identity thieves wait before using the stolen information in the hope that as time goes by, people will be less vigilant in guarding their identities. In massive data breaches such as the one suffered by the St. Joseph Health System, the hackers often steal all of the information and then sell it in batches on black market websites to identity thieves whose use of the information results in the victims suffering identity theft. While credit monitoring is often offered on a free basis, as it was in this case, by the hacked company following the data breach, credit monitoring does nothing to stop identity theft. It only tells you that you have become a victim sooner than you might otherwise become aware. A much better alternative is to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion and Experian. This will prevent even someone with your personal information from accessing your credit report to obtain credit in your name and thus help keep you from becoming a victim of identity theft. You can find information in the Archives of Scamicide about how to put a credit freeze on your credit reports.