Do you remember the huge Target breach in 2013? Though not the largest in history, the breach affected 40 million credit and debit card numbers from just one out of 600 publically disclosed data breaches in 2013.
For greater context, in 2013 the Consumer Sentinel Network registered more than 2 million complaints from various federal, state and local law enforcement offices. Of these 14% were related to identity theft, specifically: government benefit fraud, credit cards, utilities, banking, and employment.
Why would I reference something from almost ten years ago?
Because humans have an amazingly short memory, especially when they hear about an incident on the news but not directly affected by it.
Fast forward to 2021. Microsoft and Facebook were just two victims of the major data breaches to be reported.
Still not convinced it’s a problem? Okay, fine, so far in 2022, American Airlines, Uber, North Face, IHG, Samsung, and Doordash have all fallen victim to varying degrees of cyber intrusion just in the past month alone. Check out the updated list here.
You would think after such widespread breaches, more people would be more vigilant about their personal data. I don’t have concrete proof, but my guess is only a small percentage of people took greater steps to keep tabs on their records after the Target incident. In fact, it’s not a random assumption, because as The Street informs, consumers are more forgiving because of how frequently data breaches occur and their inability to keep up with the news.
So, yes, people should get a reality check, but too many of us are too busy to take better care of our information, even after it’s been widely reported that our information may’ve been compromised.
So, just how long has it been since you looked through your credit report?
If its been a while, sadly, you’re not alone.
I’ve grown a little complacent myself on account of relying on a credit monitoring service, but you know the kicker? I have a subscription to a credit monitoring service because of a data breach that left my personal data vulnerable.
Your credit report is important for several reasons. As Sarah Brady reports on MSN: “The information in your credit report can dictate whether you’re approved for loans and credit cards, how much you pay to borrow money, your car insurance premiums, your ability to find an apartment, whether you qualify for certain jobs and more.”
A credit report will also help you spot suspicious activity you may have missed.
- Credit cards offer better fraud protection.
- Free credit monitoring is nice, but it won’t protect victims.
- A security freeze won’t protect you in this sort of breach.
- Should you change the PIN number on your debit card?
- Is it safer to choose “credit” over “debit” when you use a debit card?
Regardless of your impact in that long ago Target breach, you should always keep tabs on your personal credit report. Each of the three credit bureaus is legally required to give you a free copy of your report, and while this may sound redundant, each bureau has a slightly different way of gathering, ranking, and displaying data.
If you clicked on that MSN article by Sarah, you will see the three credit bureaus have agreed to extend free weekly access to credit reports until December 2023. But, even after this grace period ends, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report at the start of each quarter and keep tabs on your credit report year-round.
Here’s how to do it:
- Visit AnnualCreditReport.com. Be careful of false or misleading websites pretending to offer free credit reports.
- Click on Request Yours Now!
- Fill out a form including your full name, birth date, SSN, and addresses for the past two years.
- You’re going to be asked for your zip code plus 4 number. Use this USPS tool to find yours.
- Pick the reports from the credit bureau of your choice: Experian, TransUnion, and/or Equifax.
- Depending on the bureau, you may be asked to confirm the last four digits of your SSN.
That’s it! It will take less than five minutes to submit your request. Assuming you don’t run into any issues, you’ll be able to review and print out your credit report in no time.
If the bureau you chose claims they were unable to process your request, they’ll provide instructions to submit a copy of the notice along with proof of identification to request your free report. Setting up an account with the bureaus may also facilitate the request process.
Blind and visually impaired visitors should note that credit bureaus will provide copies of your credit report in Braille upon request.
Note: Your free credit report does not include your credit score. This too is important to periodically check, especially before major loan applications.
Have you been a victim of identity theft? If so, what would be your best piece of advice? Have you had success ordering and obtaining your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or directly from the credit bureaus?