April 29, 2009
Here we go again with another stolen laptop story….
When I entrust my personal information to a government agency, in return, I expect them to keep it confidential and protect me. Maybe you feel that way, too. Identity theft is real and we don’t need the government giving hand-outs to identity thieves.
Unfortunately for half a million residents of Oklahoma, they’re just flat out of luck. An Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) employee had her work laptop stolen from her car while she was running an errand on her way home from work.
According to the Chronology of Data Breaches, this laptop had 500,000 names, SSN, dates of birth and addresses for over a million of their clients who receive benefits from the DHS. The computer was password protected but the information wasn’t encrypted.
The ‘officials’ in charge of this say risk is minimal. I guess that’s easy to say when it’s not your information and credit at risk.
What I can’t understand is why an employee needs to take a laptop home that has that kind of information on it. With a million identities, it’s like carrying around a bag full of cash and at the very least should never be out of eyesight of employee who is using it.
No matter how careful you are with your information, you’re only as safe from identity theft as the security of the institution that has it in their files. Judging by the number of breaches from government agencies, universities, colleges and corportations, your info isn’t even remotely safe.
Everyone: If you haven’t put a fraud alert on your credit files, please do it now. You’ll need to remember to renew it every 90 days. It works very well and is free. If you want to take an extra step and freeze your credit files, you can do that, too, but it will cost you a bit of money and time.
Go here to read about Fraud Alerts vs Security Freeze .
June 19, 2008
2,317,830 – That’s the number of identities involved in security breaches from colleges and universities in the US in the first five months of 2008. This number is from PrivacyRights.org where they track this kind of stuff. There are actually more but there are breaches that are reported as ‘Unknown’ for the amount of information stolen. Another good month for identity thieves is happening now with 106,200 identities compromised in just the first half of June.
Now that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who’s personal information was stolen will actually become a victim, but it sure does put a lot of young adults at risk through no fault of their own.
One of the problems with people in the 18-24 year old range is that they don’t give a lot of thought about checking their credit reports. We all tend to think we’re bullet-proof at that age. This gives identity thieves plenty of time to do their dirty deeds and make a clean getaway. Get a free credit report at http://annualcreditreport.com not ‘free credit report dot com’.
Another reason college students are such a high risk for identity theft is because they move so often. Their mail doesn’t always get forwarded properly and plenty of pre-approved credit offers land in the wrong hands. Bank statements, Student Loan info and FAFSA paperwork have lots of personal info in them. You don’t want to have that kind of mail going to just anyone.
Then there are vendors for credit card companies that set up on campuses and offer students credit cards. The applications require social security number, date of birth, name address – just the kind of info a thief would want. It’s possible that some vendors aren’t legit or the person taking the apps is also making copies.
Yes, I am that paranoid. You have to be careful about giving out your info. Learn to protect it now. Good credit is vitally important to you all through your adult life.
December 29, 2007
Over the Christmas holidays, a thief broke into the Davidson County Election Office in Nashville, TN and stole computers containing personal information on all registered voters. Social Security numbers of all registered voters were on the stolen computer’s hard drives.
The Election Commission says it will formally notify the public by mail that their full Social Security numbers may be available to outside parties and is asking voters monitor their financial and personal accounts for any suspicious activity.
The Elections Commission didn’t say if the information was encrypted as is often done on laptops.
If you’re a registered voter in Nashville or Davidson County, start watching your credit very closely. Identity thieves sell this type of information up to 30 times. Chances are the thieves targeted this office purposely to get information to sell on the black market. with approximately 350,000 numbers stolen $5 a pop for each social security number, that’s $1,750,000. Multiply that by 30, and you get over 52 million dollars. A big payday for the thieves.
You can do a number of things to protect yourself from identity theft.
- Place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file.
- Get identity theft protection – compare identity theft protection
- Get your free credit report from http://annualcreditreport.com
Credit monitoring services work, but they have a drawback. They only notify you AFTER your identity is stolen rather than preventing it. Then it’s up to you to get it fixed.
Getting a good identity theft protection plan will help to protect your identity. You’ll find out faster if there’s a problem starting. Doing protection yourself is good. You can set your own fraud alerts or security freezes and monitor your credit, but not as efficient or comprehensive.
October 10, 2007
Two laptops at Carnegie Mellon University was reported stolen on October 10, 2007. The theft took place the first weekend in September when a professor reported two computers were stolen from a classroom building in Ween Hall.
CMU began the process of notifying about 400 students whose personal information including social security numbers was compromised. The data on the computers included course roster files for students.
While the officials at CMU don’t think the computers were stolen with identity theft as a motive, the fact remains – sensitive and personal information was on the hard drives. There has been no report if that information was encrypted and password protected.
The students affected were given information about getting a free credit report and advised to monitor their credit. I hope they take that advice and learn all they can about preventing identity theft.
October 10, 2007
A laptop belonging to the HMRC – HM Revenues and Customs – was stolen in London on September 20, 2007.
The laptop was in the trunk of a car belonging to an HMRC employee who had been using the PC for a routine audit of tax information from several investment firms. This employee immediately reported it and is now under an internal investigation because keeping the laptop in a car is a breach of HMRC’s rules.
A spokesperson for HMRC said the information was heavily encrypted and that "it is well nigh impossible for a thief to make use of the information." He also apologized for the incident and took full responsibility.
Five firms had customer data on the stolen laptop including Standard Life and LionTrust. The BBC reported that the laptop may have held data for about 400 customers with high value individual savings accounts (ISA’s).
HMRC carries identity fraud insurance to protect their investment clients from identity theft. However, the information stolen includes very personal information such as passport numbers and addresses. Even if there is no actual monetary loss to a client, it leaves them feeling violated and anxious about any of their information that has now been placed in the hands of thieves.
Stolen laptops and security breaches happen all over the world. Identity theft isn’t confined to any one particular country. Learn what you can to do protect yourself from these types of security breaches. Keep your identity safe.
October 10, 2007
University of Iowa Students now have to be on the lookout for identity theft after a teaching assistant’s laptop was stolen from his house in Arizona in September 15, 2007.
The laptop contained personal information on 184 students including the social security numbers for at least 100 of the names listed. The information on the laptop was for students registered in philosopy courses between 2002 and 2006. Students affected were in sections of "Philosophy and Human Nature," "Philosophy and the Just Society," and "Principles of Reasoning" taught by Tuomas Manninen.
The personal information was buried deep in the directory structure but not encrypted. Information Technology Security Officer Jane Drews analyzed backup copies of the files and found them an unlikely source for committing identity theft. That’s easy for someone to say when it’s not their ss number affected.
Back in June 2006, another professor’s laptop was stolen in Davenport, Iowa that had the personal info of 280 current and former students of the Tippie College of Business’s Master’s of Business Administration program. The University of Iowa announced at the time that they were trying to reduce the use of a student’s ss number and evaluating security precautions for laptops and other mobile devices. Apparently they haven’t made much progress in the past year with their security protection.