It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that protection of employees’ personal data is important. However, Unfortunately the rocket scientists have not quite figured this out yet as an internal memo just sent to NASA employees notified them that it had been hacked and that the personal information including Social Security numbers of thousands of employees was stolen by unknown hackers. The stolen records go back all the way to July of 2006. Making this data breach even worse is the fact that NASA has had multiple data breaches in the past including one in 2012 in which a laptop containing unencrypted personal records of NASA employees were stolen. Probably few Scamicide readers are NASA employees, but if you are, you will be receiving free identity theft protection services. As for the rest of us, what can we do to protect ourselves from data breaches and why is that so important?
Even if you do everything possible to protect the privacy and security of your personal information, you are only as safe as the places with the worst security that hold your information. Companies like Equifax, Orbitz, eBay, Premera Blue Cross, Anthem, Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, T-Mobile, Hyatt, Brooks Brothers, Chipotle, Neiman Marcus, Arby’s, Staples, Kmart, Dairy Queen, Home Depot and Target have all suffered massive data breaches in which your personal information has been compromised and this list does not even include the various government agencies such as the federal Office of Personnel Management data breach in which the personal information of 21.5 million people was stolen. This stolen information can, unfortunately, lead to your becoming a victim of identity theft which can have a dramatic negative affect on your life in many ways.
The best thing anyone can do is to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. With a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies even if someone has your personal information including your Social Security number, they cannot access your credit report for purposes of gaining credit or loans in your name. You can find information about how to put a credit freeze on your credit reports at each of the three major credit reporting agencies by going to the Search for Scams tab at the top of the first page of Scamicide and putting in the words “credit freeze.” It is also important to note that since September, federal law now allows you to freeze and unfreeze your credit reports at no charge.
Another thing you can do to reduce your chance of becoming compromised in a data breach is to limit the amount of personal information you provide to the companies and governmental agencies with which you do business. Your doctor may ask for your Social Security number, but he or she does not need it.
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