Investor Alert: Identity Theft, Data Breaches and Your Investment Accounts

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy is issuing this Investor Alert to provide investors with important steps to take regarding their investment accounts if they become victims of identity theft or a data breach.

Investors should always take steps to safeguard their personal financial information (e.g., social security number, financial account numbers, phone number, e-mail address, or usernames and passwords for online financial accounts). However, if identity theft or a data breach compromises your personal financial information, here are some important steps to take immediately.

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5 Smart Ways to Deter Identity Theft

You’ve heard the expression, “Locks were made to keep honest people honest.” The same may be said for identity theft protection.

You can do everything within your power to keep your information private, but hackers and criminals intent on stealing and using your identity are also intent on finding a way to make it happen. They’re crafty. They’re persistent.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take steps to protect your personal information. It just means you also need to be persistent about protecting your information and become aware of the steps to take if your information is compromised. Such knowledge will allow you to act quickly, and possibly stem the damage.

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When it comes to hacking, the aim isn’t always fraud

The credit data agency Experian could be facing criminal investigations, fines and class action lawsuits, after a hack that compromised the records of 15 million people, all of them customers of the wireless carrier T-Mobile.

And while this may appear just like any other hacking story — there’s a breach, a promise of free credit monitoring, investigations — this time Social Security numbers were among the data compromised. When it’s not just a credit card number, stolen data can create all kinds of headaches.

People can have fake tax returns filed in their name, fraudulant car loans and even mortgages. And when it comes to identity theft, the onus is on the victims. When the fraudsters don’t pay up, banks and loan collectors can come after the victims, instead. And it could take victims of fraud years to clear their name and financial histories.

“Law enforcement can’t deal with the volume” of fraud, said Chester Wisniewski, a senior adviser at the security firm Sophos. “If you approach the FBI, they’re not really interested if the crime is less than $1 million.”

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How to Freeze a Credit Report to Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft

If your Social Security number gets hacked in any data breaches, including recently hacked T-Mobile, then there’s a way to prevent hackers from misusing your identity (i.e. identity theft).

The solution here is that you can institute a security freeze at each of the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, or Transunion. Once frozen, nobody will be allowed to access your credit report, which will prevent any identity thieves from opening new accounts in your name.

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Familiar Fraud: Five Ways to Help Protect Against It

Recent news reports have highlighted how hackers in places like Russia and China accessed the personal information of people in the United States and other countries.
But identity thieves also live closer to home.
Just ask victims of familiar fraud. In this scenario, someone you know—and likely trust—steals your identity.
Familiar fraud is more difficult to prevent because we are typically taught to trust our closest relatives and believe they wouldn’t hurt us.

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Careful, that PayPal-paid sale could be a scammer

PayPal and other online payment mechanisms are a target for identity thieves.

On the dark web at present, PayPal accounts are going for as little as 50 cents each, allowing criminals to assume compromised accounts to facilitate buying products from unsuspecting sellers.

Eighteen cases have been reported to iDcare over the past couple of months relating to sellers on eBay, Gumtree and other marketplaces that have fallen victim to a very simple and common scam.

Here’s how it works…

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Why Hackers Say Your Stolen Identity Is Only Worth $1

Criminals are selling your stolen personal data for as little as $1 on the “dark web,” a new report on Wednesday revealed.

The so-called dark web is a heavily encrypted part of the Internet that makes it difficult for authorities to detect the location or owners of a website. It is notorious for hosting marketplaces selling illegal items such as drugs.

Hackers responsible for data breaches at companies often put the information they have stolen on the dark web for others to buy and make use of for financial gain.

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Parents: It Is Your Job to Help Better Protect Your Family Against Child Identity Theft

Child identity theft can devastate the financial lives of Americans before they are even old enough to drive. And until there’s a federal law passed that specifically addresses child identity theft, the responsibility of protecting a child’s identity falls to the child’s parents or guardians.

This crime occurs when a minor’s Social Security number (SSN) is used to fraudulently open credit accounts. Parents do not usually access their child’s credit report until the child is ready to apply for a credit card or student loans, so identity thieves have years to run up debt…

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