The Anthem Breach – Protecting Yourself From Identity Theft

The latest security breach, which took place at health insurer Anthem, was announced yesterday. From an affected person’s standpoint, the Anthem breach is the worst type that could happen. The breach involved social security numbers, which creates an “all access pass” for an identity thief.

For starters, the SSN allows crooks to open new credit card and other financial accounts in the victim’s name. This time of year, a criminal could use your information to get a big tax refund, which will create a huge problems for you when you try to file your tax return, as it will be rejected by the IRS.

In general, identity theft is a crime that has lingering effects and is a gigantic hassle for the victim. The Anthem breach has opened the door for this to happen for up to 80 million people.

If you are a person affected by the breach. Here are the things you can do to stay safe:

  1. Put a fraud alert or credit freeze on your credit reporting accounts with all three credit reporting agencies.
  2. File an “identity Theft Affidavit (form 14039) with the IRS.
  3. Watch your bank accounts and credit card accounts and report unusual activity.
  4. Be extra vigilant when you receive emails or phone calls from someone claiming to represent an organization you do business with. Never provide personal information in response to an unsolicited contact.

For more information about this, please feel free to download my handout, “Preventing Identity Theft”, which can be found here:

Worst Passwords of 2014

The latest report on our password usage in 2014 is public and it doesn’t look good. Based on an analysis of millions of leaked passwords, it shows “123456” and “password” as the two most common passwords. That is unchanged from 2013.

When you use weak passwords, you are exchanging security for convenience, which is not a good protocol, especially in today’s active hacking environment. It is evident from this list of the worst passwords of 2014, that people have not changed their bad password habits. Here are three tips for better protection:

1. Use strong passwords that are a minimum of eight characters in length and contain upper and lower case and special characters.

2. Use a password vault or manager to help you store and access strong passwords. They are plenty of free and paid options for your computer and your smartphone.

3. If you do store your passwords in a Word file or Excel spreadsheet, as my audience members often tell me they do, do yourself a big favor and encrypt and password protect the file. And don’t be like Sony and name the file “Passwords”.

An extra tip: Don’t use any of the “Worst Passwords of 2014”.