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Was Your Data Taken in Experian Breach?

A breach to one of Experian‘s servers – discovered on Sept. 15 – has resulted in 15 million compromised records with personal information like names and Social Security numbers. The breach included information about T-Mobile customers from as far back as 2013. Here are the details and action steps you can take if you think you’re a victim.

The server that was attacked housed records of those who applied for T-Mobile’s services between Sept. 1, 2013, and Sept. 16, 2015. Overall, the compromised information included…

  • Names
  • Addresses
  • Dates of birth
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Social Security numbers
  • Passport IDs

The affected server was not part of Experian’s consumer credit bureau; nevertheless, a data breach is good reason to check your defenses when it comes protecting your personal information, and there are plenty of ways you can protect yourself.

Make sure hackers didn’t steal your information and use it for their advantage. Annually check your credit reports and bank statements for suspicious activity, like a new line of credit or purchases you didn’t make.

Be cautious! When a breach like this occurs, fraudsters may call the victims and say they’re from the affected companies. They may ask you for your personal information, so they can “help” you. Keep in mind that T-Mobile and Experian made it clear that they will not send a message or call and ask for personal information connected with the incident.

Consider some of the major data breaches we’ve had in the past couple years:

  • JP Morgan Chase – 76 million customer records
  • Anthem – 87.6 million
  • Home Depot – 56 million
  • Target – 110 million

Whether or not you think you’re a victim, employing an identity theft protection plan is relevant and important.

Ironically, T-Mobile is offering resolution services through Experian’s ProtectMyID, for those who were affected by the data breach; however, full, continuing coverage demands an identity protection service that has more robust features than those provided through the complimentary membership.

ProtectMyID’s complimentary membership includes SSN and credit-card monitoring, but you also need monitoring for high-risk transactions and data sweeps. ProtectMyID includes credit monitoring and an Experian credit report upon entry, but you also need your credit score and identity risk score (showing how vulnerable you are to identity theft). ProtectMyID has lost wallet/purse assistance and alerts for suspicious activity, which is good. It is backed by $1 million identity theft insurance coverage, too, but you also need coverage that will reimburse you for the expenses you incur while returning your life to normal. ProtectMyID has fraud resolution agents who can offer assistance to victims, but you also need a financial consultation, a legal consultation and more.

You need stronger layers of protection against identity theft, help creating an action plan and professional assistance with addressing compromised information and accounts.

The Experian data breach is a big reminder of how a robust identity theft protection plan is absolutely necessary.

New Worry on ID Theft: Tax Fraud

Statistics on identity theft show that tax-related fraud causes billions of dollars of financial harm, but tax fraud assistance may or may not be included in identity theft protection products. For comprehensive coverage, an identity theft protection service must include tax fraud assistance.

What is tax fraud?

Instances of tax fraud could involve…

  • Phone scams where thieves pretend to be the IRS calling for money or information
  • Phishing scams where fraudsters send fake IRS emails or set up unsolicited websites to get money or information
  • Criminals using false information or a taxpayer’s stolen information to file fraudulent tax returns, thereby getting the victim’s refund
  • Dishonest tax preparers who defraud their clients with false deductions, inflated expenses or the like

How common is tax fraud?

Every tax season – and all the months in between – the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) deals with dishonest tax-related schemes. The TIGTA has received well over 90,000 complaints about IRS phone scams and found that victims have lost approximately $5 million.

In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1,455,146 identity theft complaints – a third of which stemmed from tax-related fraud. In 2014, the FTC’s 1.5 million fraud-related complaints revealed that consumers have paid a total of $1.7 billion because of fraud, and a third of those complaints were also tax-related.

Fake tax returns cause problems, as well: $4 billion of tax refunds went to fraudsters after they sent in fake tax returns to the IRS.

How do identity theft protection plans address tax fraud?

Unfortunately, not many products provide services specifically geared toward preventing tax fraud. Common features, like credit monitoring, are less likely to catch these kinds of crimes because tax information is not connected to the main credit activity being monitored.

Another reason for lack of tax fraud assistance could be strict limitations on a third party’s ability to communicate with the IRS. The IRS requires that anyone communicating with it on a victim’s behalf must have IRS-approved credentials (e.g. enrolled agent, certified tax preparer or certified public accountant).

The upkeep of a tax fraud assistance division can get expensive, as well. A significant amount of time and money are needed for finding approved specialists, giving them the time to work through each case and maintaining the correct credentials. Some certifications involve continuing education, periodic renewal fees that can really add up and purchasing and maintaining a tax preparer bond in the thousands of dollars.

Despite limited capabilities to detect that a member is a victim of tax fraud or act on a victim’s behalf with the IRS, a specialist could still assist victims by guiding them on what to do next and giving them the necessary resources to carry out the steps themselves.

How can you avoid tax fraud?

First, whether it’s on your own or through an identity theft protection plan, tap into resources about how to avoid victimization. For example, learn how to pick a reliable tax preparer and how to handle tax documents with confidential information.

Second, make sure your protection plan includes Social Security number (SSN) monitoring because your SSN is a key piece of information that the IRS uses to confirm your tax return actually came from you. In some instances, if a taxpayer’s SSN is at risk, the IRS will issue a special PIN number that differentiates the taxpayer’s real tax return from the thief’s fake ones.

Third is tax fraud assistance, which provides access to professionals who will help victims report the crime and address the resulting issues. Victims of tax scams deal with the same burden of significant financial losses and rebuilding reputations that accompany any other kind of fraud. Support from people who are familiar with both the tax system and identity theft recovery will give victims direction and help them take action.

Taxes are already frustrating for many, so adding the problem of identity theft only aggravates the situation. The statistics prove that tax fraud is relevant and must be taken into account when building security against identity theft and fraudulent activity.

Why Credit Monitoring Isn’t Enough

Having credit monitoring instead of identity monitoring is like putting a security system in the elevator but not in the whole office building. The scope of security is limited and leaves the workforce vulnerable. Thus, understanding how monitoring programs differ, how they work and why it matters is critical for safeguarding your identity.

Why should you care?

Victims of identity theft deal with increased stress, hours of work rebuilding their reputation and recovering from major financial losses; all of which have major consequences in other areas of life – like decreased productivity and performance on the job.

Given the statistics, if you haven’t dealt with the crime in some capacity, it’s only a matter of time.

The good news is that arming yourself with credit monitoring and identity monitoring gives you a better chance of stopping identity theft before it gets out of hand, thereby diminishing the negative effects that follow.

What is credit monitoring? How does it work?

There’s a broad range of credit monitoring services available in today’s market, and each program varies. Credit monitoring is a reactive approach to identity theft that involves checking credit reports for fraudulent activity. Because a credit report shows past activity, it will only reveal fraud or theft that has already affected the victim. That’s why it’s like only having security in the elevator: Once you realize the culprit is there, he has already infiltrated the building.

Credit monitoring programs will pull a member’s report, often quarterly or annually, from any number of the three major credit bureaus and make it visible to the member. On top of that, programs watch credit reports, transactions and activity for changes that could be criminal.

Another aspect of credit monitoring is resolution and recovery assistance, but, again, the levels of assistance vary from product to product. For instance, credit monitoring services will alert a member if they find fraudulent activity on the credit report(s), but some services don’t inform the credit bureaus on behalf of the member.

What is identity monitoring? How does it work?

Identity monitoring takes a more active approach. It not only focuses on credit reports but broadens the security sweep to account for name, birth date, address, email, driver’s license, Social Security number and more. Think of it as a security system for the whole office building, with security officers at every door and window.

Top-notch identity monitoring programs will check national databases for suspicious activity, watch out for questionable transactions and ultimately try to keep the member informed with real-time alerts about a data breach or fraudulent act. Touch points could even include scanning criminal record databases, sex offender registries and public records.

Identity monitoring can also give people peace of mind about their biggest worries: More than 70% of consumers are concerned about their Social Security number, credit card, insurance and driver’s license number, while less than 60% are concerned about their credit score and transaction history. People want more protection than what’s offered by credit monitoring alone, and identity monitoring is the answer.

What is the difference?

One major difference between identity monitoring and credit monitoring is accuracy. The all-inclusive nature of identity monitoring allows for a more accurate assessment of susceptibility to identity theft. For example, credit monitoring may not detect problems like tax fraud or medical identity theft because credit reports don’t necessarily show those types of information. Because identity monitoring is more robust, it can discover anomalies and provide protection for more than the financial aspects covered by credit monitoring.

Simply put, identity monitoring provides more coverage than credit monitoring.

For more information, visit clcidprotect.com.

My Employee Is a Victim! Now What?

The difference between a victim of identity theft who does have coverage and a victim who doesn’t is monumental, and the costs (time, money, health) affect not only the victim but also his productivity in the workplace. It is vital that an employer understands the necessity of an identity theft protection plan, and which types of services and features should be included, so employees have access to the resources they need for timely and sufficient assistance.

How does identity theft affect the victim?

Identity theft affects more and more people every minute; in fact, every two seconds someone becomes a victim. The financial consequences of this growing threat can’t be ignored:

  • Over the last couple years, roughly $45 billion has been lost because of identity theft.
  • Fraud ends up costing companies three times as much as what was initially stolen.

Thieves not only steal people’s information and money but their time, as well. Close to a third of identity theft victims spend a month or more trying to resolve the issues, and a lengthy recovery process takes a toll on victims’ health:

What does identity theft have to do with productivity?

Identity theft can distract victims and affect their levels of productivity at work.

If identity theft causes such severe stress, and the recovery process takes months to complete, imagine how many workers are distracted or absent because they’re dealing with fraud, and imagine what that’s doing to their company’s bottom line.

How can identity theft protection products help?

Catching identity theft before it gets out of hand, and getting quality support, can help cut costs. Say a thief steals someone’s personal information and tries to reset her bank password. If the victim has a protection plan that includes high-risk transaction monitoring, that feature would catch the transaction as it is occurring and could prevent it from going through. If the victim doesn’t have that kind of alert system, she may not even find out about the issue until the thief has already drained the account.

There are different kinds of monitoring available, and each type covers a different group of data points. The most common are credit monitoring (for credit-related activity) and identity monitoring (for personal information). Other features could include watching high-risk transactions, assistance with tax fraud and medical identity theft cases and data sweeps.

Assistance during the recovery process can also lessen distress and distraction. If victims have access to a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (or someone with comparable experience) who can give them an immediate action plan and actually take on some of the recovery tasks, victims can recover more quickly, which means decreased absenteeism and financial losses.

Over the past year, 70% of companies suffered from fraud. The threat is real, and the consequences are deep, but they can be subdued if employees have a coverage plan with support for victims and protection against future attacks.

The Cost of Fraud in the Workplace

Identity theft in the workplace and the expensive consequences are affecting more and more companies each year. One in three businesses were affected by data breaches last year, and the number of identity theft victims continues to grow. As the threat increases, it’s important to understand how identity theft happens, how it affects a company and its employees and what an employer can do to help.

How does identity theft happen?

Or better yet, how do thieves get information? Common ways include the following:

  • A dishonest employer/employee stealing information from coworkers (97% of cases, reported by companies that were fraud victims and uncovered the responsible party, were inside jobs.)
  • Hacking company databases or installing malware
  • Phishing – sending fake emails or setting up unsolicited websites/pop-up windows to get information from unsuspecting victims
  • Phone scams (40% of fraud complaints noted that the fraudsters contacted them via phone.)
  • Going through the mail or trash

There are plenty of ways that a thief uses newfound treasures. A few examples are…

  • Filing fraudulent tax returns to get the victims’ refunds
  • Bypassing security questions to access bank accounts, etc.
  • Getting healthcare through a victim’s insurance
  • Opening lines of credit, obtaining loans, leases, etc.
  • Selling the information to other thieves

How does identity theft affect the employee?

Employees who become victims of identity theft must deal with all kinds of consequences. They’ve lost their sense of safety and privacy and probably have significant financial losses. It all adds up to major stress and lots of work, which means employees are going to be heavily distracted at their jobs.

Identity theft also brings major financial setbacks. Millions of victims are suffering from the billions of dollars lost to identity theft over the last couple years, and it doesn’t help that one in four workers already deal with major financial distress on a daily basis, whether they’re a victim or not.

How does identity theft affect the employer?

Identity theft hits every kind of business, robbing companies of their private information, revealing their private information and decreasing their levels of productivity.

Fraud repercussions decrease employee productivity and eat away at company revenue. Unfortunately, every industry is vulnerable.

How can the employer help?

A good way for employers to keep their companies safe from the consequences of identity theft is to incorporate an identity theft prevention and recovery service into the employees’ benefits program. Features could include continual monitoring, assistance for addressing suspicious activity and resources that help with resolution.

Identity theft protection plans with 24/7 monitoring of credit activity and personal information will help reveal fraudulent activity before it causes significant damage. Likewise, a product that provides assistance and resources for the recovery process can help alleviate some of the stress that victimized employees feel, because they have professional guidance and support for tackling all of the necessary tasks.

All employers have a reason to consider what kind of protection and coverage is currently available for their employees. More and more companies are affected each year, and the health and financial costs should be enough to push employers toward getting a solution.