Cyber-fare

Up 50% since 2015, nearly 52 percent of the world’s population (3.8 billion individuals) are now online. That’s great progress and opens up a whole host of opportunities for everyone online to experience the many benefits of being online.

But as you well know, there are still many security issues that go along with using the internet. We have in this country gotten used to online banking and shopping, and some even post things to social media that can give hackers an edge. And many of us don’t even know it. That along with passwords that should not be passwords, and we have opened ourselves up to the potential to have security issues with our data.

The United States is constantly under a barrage of attacks from foreign actors.

  • Verified 2018. Russian hackers attack US power grids.
  • Verified 2018. Iranian hackers attack more than 140 US universities.
  • Verified 2017. China hackers attack the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) exposing records of over 22 million federal employees.
  • Organizations are constantly threatened by malicious actors.
  • Adobe had 38 million records stolen.
  • Home Depot had 56 million consumer records exposed.
  • Uber has 57 million users and 600,000 driver records compromised.
  • JP Morgan Chase (The largest US bank) had the information from over 76 million households and over 7 million companies compromised through a data breach.
  • PlayStation had 77 million consumer accounts breached.
  • Anthem, the second largest insurance company in the US, had 78.8 million current (and former) customer records exposed.
  • TJX Companies had 94 million credit cards stolen.

Individual identities and lines of credit are overwhelmed by cyber-attacks

  • Target had 110 million consumer records compromised
  • Heartland Payment Systems had 134 million credit cards stolen.
  • Equifax had 143 million US consumer records compromised. Of that, 209,000 users had credit card information stolen.
  • eBay had 145 million users compromised.
  • Under Armour had 150 million users compromised.
  • Exactis had 340 million US user records compromised.
  • Facebook admits all 2.2 billion users should assume their personal information was made public.
  • Verizon (owner of Yahoo) announced that all 3 billion user accounts had been hacked.

So, what’s the fare we pay for having lines of credit readily available; for having a good credit score; for providing our PII (personally identifiable information); for being socially media, medially relevant. Is it anonymity? Financial well-being? Credit worthiness? Having your personal information unknowingly sold, used, readily abused? Is that a fair fare?

Just like all of the regulations in the Collection industry, ‘fairness’ doesn’t really matter. It just is what it is. The current climate is where we find ourselves. You can either choose to commence in e-commerce, participate in commerce, exercise your inner consumerism, or make the contrary decision.

Unless you’re able to live off the land, off the grid, in some self-sustaining kind of way, the truth is you’ll need a driver’s license; registered address; car loan; work email; mortgage; car insurance; health insurance; cell phone, cable, gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage services; grocery store memberships; lines of credit; retail store credit card; association membership perks; social media handle/s, gym membership, etc.… Even land-use permits from your local government and hunting/fishing licenses through your state department of natural resources have paper trails, all of which is able to be mined for, compiled, and sold.

None of this means you’re helpless. Check your Credit Card and Bank statements religiously for unauthorized activity. If you get a call from a debt Collector regarding a debt that you don’t recall, ask them to help you research it by providing supporting documentation. Pull your credit reports (directly from all of the major bureaus) annually. You’re entitled to get one from each bureau free per year. Limit the amount and frequency of personal information you freely divulge. When shopping online use reputable companies (research who you’re doing business with), make sure they have secure check-outs or PayPal. Never give your full SSN over the phone. Stay educated on the trending scams (Canadian lottery, secret shopper, Nigerian prince, delinquent taxes, and pyramid schemes), if it’s too good or too bad to be true it’s probably not!

Do your research and know what to do if/when someone gets access to your credit/debit card or bank account information. Communicate with the Credit Card Company, Credit Union or Bank immediately, report the card lost or stolen and convey which charges you did not authorize. Likewise, know what to do if someone uses your personal information to open one or many lines of credit. File a police report, contact the credit bureaus and lock out any lines of credit with a fraud alert. Communicate, communicate, and communicate.

Yes, the current US system of 9 digit SSNs is antiquated. Yes, even the largest organizations spending millions on cyber security get hacked and subsequently your personal information gets compromised. Yes, there are bad actors looking to make a quick buck and to do harm. Cyber-fare however, is only as costly as you allow it to be. Avoiding the facts is and will continue to be no long-term solution. You have the capability to keep your personal information more personal than it is today, to take measures to avoid fraud, and to combat that fraud when and if it should occur.