The Justice Department recently announced that through collaborative efforts with law enforcement authorities in Cyprus and Latvia that it had shut down a series of criminal websites operating on the Dark Web, that part of the Internet where cybercriminals sell goods and services. SSNDOB Marketplace operated a series of websites that sold stolen personal information of 24 million Americans including names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers to other criminals who used this information for identity theft.
Identity theft can result in your being hounded by debt collectors for debts you did not incur; becoming unable to access your own credit cards, bank accounts, or brokerage accounts; having your assets stolen; being arrested for crimes committed by people who have stolen your identity; or even receiving improper medical care because your medical identity has been stolen and your medical records have been corrupted. In addition, identity theft can ruin your credit rating, which can affect your chances to get a loan, get a job, get insurance or rent a home. Identity theft is the number-one consumer fraud in America.
So what can you to do protect yourself?
The best thing you can do to help prevent you from becoming a victim of identity theft is to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Since 2018 it has been free to do so. If you have not already done so, put a credit freeze on your credit reports at all of the major credit reporting agencies. Here are links to each of them with instructions about how to get a credit freeze:
It is also important to regularly monitor your credit reports for unauthorized accounts. For years federal law provided for a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus annually, however, in response to the pandemic, all three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are offering free credit reports weekly through December 31, 2022. You can get your free credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com
. Some other sites promise free credit reports, but sign you up for other services that you probably don’t want or need. You also consider signing up for an identity theft protection service if you have not already done so.
A number of companies off identity theft insurance and they offer a wide variety of services that may include monitoring your credit report and assisting you if you become a victim of identity theft. Some of the services they offer you can do for yourself at no cost although it may be more convenient to have someone else do these things for you and the cost of these policies can vary considerably,
In my book “Identity Theft Alert” I describe in detail all of the things you should consider when deciding whether or not to purchase identity theft insurance. However, many people are unaware that you can also get identity theft insurance as a part of your homeowners insurance as a rider or endorsement to your liability coverage although it generally only reimburses you for costs you incur in remedying the problem such as correcting false information in your credit reports.
A number of homeowners insurance companies offer cyber liability coverage as a rider to your homeowners insurance policy that will provide services such as reimbursing you if you are a victim of a phishing attack where you are conned out of money, wire transfer fraud losses, electronic bank account theft and cyber extortion payments as well as virus clean up of your computers following a cyber attack. The cost of such protection ranges from $25 a year to $60 per year depending on the company which is less than the cost of stand alone identity theft insurance policies.
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