If you’ve never taken the time to do an internet search on yourself, you just may be surprised about how many details of your life – past and present – are readily available to the public. In addition to personal details that already may be available, fraudsters sometimes breach security systems at major companies, potentially giving them access to some of your most personal information, like your Social Security number, birth date, address or credit card numbers.
If you suspect that your personal information may have been exposed, take these five important steps, then be on high alert for signs of identity theft and phishing.
If your personal information has been exposed, you could be at risk for identity theft. Fraudsters with your information could pose as you or use available information to access your accounts. Depending on the details they acquire, they could open accounts in your name or make purchases, resulting in hits to your credit score and damage to your finances.
Deborah Guild, chief security officer for The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., says all it takes is a Social Security number, which can be paired with a different name, birth date and address to apply for credit.
“The primary use of stolen personal information is for financial purposes,” said Guild. “Using the stolen Social Security number, identity thieves can open up credit cards, rent apartments, buy cars, secure jobs and apply for welfare or other government programs.”
Warning signs that you may be a victim include:
Furthermore, fraudsters may use news of a security breach to impersonate the affected company through phishing, tricking you into providing more personal information or infecting your computer with malware. The danger lies in fraudulent phone calls, fake text messages (referred to as a SMiShing attack) and email links and attachments, which can deliver malware to your computer system with one click.
The easiest way to protect yourself is to not click on links or respond to text messages you don’t recognize. Phishing attacks are designed to resemble legitimate correspondence and rely on a user’s inability to spot them in order to succeed. Email or text messages containing certain red flags should alert users to a possible phishing or SMiShing attack:
Fortunately, there are ways to help detect and avoid a phish.
Upon spotting a phish, delete it or forward it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
For more information, visit PNC’s security and privacy site »
Using a stolen Social Security number, identity thieves can open up credit cards, rent apartments, buy cars, secure jobs and apply for welfare or other government programs.
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