In the aftermath of the major security breaches that happened at Target and Neiman Marcus earlier this year, American customers are starting to wake up to a whole new reality: a banal trip to the store can leave them without their most precious asset – their identity.
Identity theft is the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Annually, more than 11 million U.S. citizens fall victim to credit card fraudsters, reporting an average financial loss of $4,930 per incident. The cost to the economy is also tremendous: a sobering new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggest that identity theft costs the United States $10 billion more than any other property crime. $24.7 billion was the loss caused by identity theft in 2012, while losses for property theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft totaled only $14 billion.
So whose fault is it after all? Are companies we trust with our credit card information not doing enough to keep it safe? Or are customers the ones who fail at keeping their most important data out of the hands of fraudsters? It turns out, data breaches are no one’s fault – it’s the new normal we can do little about.
Was it a network breach? Or did it look more like an inside job?
Experts’ opinions on what happened to U.S. retailer Target Corp. vary significantly, and the company is not willing to share any details other than confirming it was indeed a major security breach that resulted in compromised credit card information. First estimates suggest that more than 40 million customers shopping at Target between November, 27, and December, 15, are possible identity theft victims.
Right after the incident, a press release reassured customers that,
“Target alerted authorities and financial institutions immediately after it was made aware of the unauthorized access, and is putting all appropriate resources behind these efforts,” the retailer says in its statement. “Among other actions, Target is partnering with a leading third-party forensics firm to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.”
Not much is known about the extent of the damage, but company officials have stated that hackers have most likely gained access to clients’ names, credit and debit card information, card expiration dates, PINs, and CVV security codes. Apparently, the PINs are useless in the hands of thieves, given that “they were encrypted with Triple DES at the card reader, and the key for decrypting them was not stored on Target’s system.” Some experts believe that the attackers gained access to the company’s CRM databases, from where they’ve stolen names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
Repercussions of Target’s failure to protect its customers’ data will most likely range from millions of dollars in fines paid to credit card companies and banks that will report any image prejudice to class-action lawsuits filed by customers. At the moment, the company is working with forensics firms to thoroughly investigate the incident and minimize damage.
Who Becomes a Victim?
No matter how hard you try to protect yourself and keep your sensitive data private, the sad reality is you can become a victim of hackers, regardless if you shop online or file your tax returns on paper. The companies and government agencies you put all your trust in know they can only do so much to protect your financial information:
“Every company—no matter how good their security team and no matter how strong their security technology—has something valuable these thieves want, and they will get it,” said Theresa Payton, CEO of the digital security company Fortalice and former White House chief information officer. “It’s not a matter of will they get in. It’s what happens to your data once they get in.”
Estimates suggest that over 1 billion records have been compromised in the last decade. Although there aren’t any measures to guarantee 100% protection of credit card information, there are signs that indicate customers might be the victims of fraud. Here’s how to interpret them:
• If any goods and purchases you know nothing about appear on your statement (regardless of their value), it’s worth checking out.
• Check for errors and anything suspicious on your report. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three agencies, so it may help to ask for one every four months and keep track of your expenses.
• If you receive statements for an unknown credit card account, it could be a sign someone else is using your name to apply for credit cards.
• If a new credit card you didn’t apply for suddenly appears in your mail, it could be a mistake, but then again it could be a thief looking to go on a shopping spree in your name. Contact the issuing company immediately.
Tax Identity Theft: The New Crime in Town
Recently, there have been reports of an increase in tax-related identity theft, with thieves stealing Social Security Numbers to claim refunds. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), more than 14.6 million suspicious tax returns have been flagged since 2011 (a 66 percent increase from the previous year), keeping more than $50 billion in fraudulent refunds.
– Financial service representatives working in hospitals and health care centers selling financial information to tax refund fraudsters
– IRS data-entry clerks not entering paper returns into the agency’s computers
– Military personnel serving in combat zones are allowed to postpone filing their return up to 180 days after leaving the combat area, which makes them easy victims to identity thieves
– Tax return preparers using past clients’ financial information to file false tax returns
– Thieves breaking in financial institutions’ offices and stealing tax papers of clients
No matter if you’re at home surfing the internet or at the store buying groceries, it always serves to be extra careful with how you handle your sensitive information. Don’t rely on others – banks, corporations, government agencies – to protect you from fraudsters. It’s time to face the fact that privacy in the age of big data is becoming more of a myth, and take matters into your own hands.
About the Author Andrew M. Weisberg is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago, Illinois. A former prosecutor in Cook County, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar. Mr. Weisberg is a sole practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg.
Although parking lot crashes are rarely high-speed, they do happen – a lot of them. Moreover, parking lot accidents often result in expensive repair bills and insurance increases. A parking lot crash can also cause serious or even fatal injuries, especially if pedestrians are involved. Below we’re going to break down how parking lot auto [..]
Consumer products regulations ensure that most products on the market are safe for their intended use. However, some consumer products companies push the boundaries of regulations or cut corners in the design or manufacturing process, which can lead to dangerous defective products reaching US consumers. When consumers are injured by a defective product, it may [..]
Medical malpractice is a type of professional negligence, and it can take many different forms. For example, it may be based on a negligent action that the doctor took, or conversely, on something the doctor failed to do. However, in order to successfully hold a doctor liable for medical malpractice, you must be able [..]
Florida policyholders purchase insurance and pay premiums with the understanding that – should disaster strike – their insurer will pay out damages to compensate for losses covered in the policy. That’s the whole point of insurance! Paying out covered damages is considered to be acting in good faith on the part of the insurance company. [..]
As your teen approaches their 15th birthday, they have an exciting opportunity – the ability to get their learner’s permit. The Florida learner’s permit allows residents to start the journey toward driving – and freedom! However, in the immortal words of Uncle Ben from Spiderman (say it with us), “With great power comes great responsibility.” [..]
As a parent, you care about your child and you look out for their well-being. However, you may not be aware of which types of injuries occur the most often for Florida kids, and that’s something that can be the difference between avoiding an accident and spending time in the hospital. Children are treated every [..]
The holidays are just around the corner, and many Floridians are looking forward to getting into the holiday spirit with colorful decorations and fun family activities. However, the holidays also carry an increased risk of many kinds of injuries. On their own, holiday decorations are responsible for about 15,000 injuries annually. You probably know to [..]
Not sure which car seat is right for your child? You have an important job as a parent—providing a safe experience for your child while he or she is riding in a vehicle. Thousands of children are injured or killed in Florida car crashes each year, and the right car seat can protect your child [..]
Haunted houses are supposed to be scary. You want to jump. You want to scream. You want to be nervous about turning the next corner. What do you not want? To get hurt. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to a Michigan woman in 2014. She visited the haunted house as a patron, and a moving [..]
Every day, Florida pedestrians are injured by car drivers. Some injuries are minor, yet some can be life-threatening. In this post, we’ll tell you the types of injuries you can expect if you get hit by a car, and what you can do to fight back and get the compensation you need and deserve. Stats [..]
Bars and advertisements for alcoholic products often encourage people to “drink responsibly,” but in some cases, the establishments or bartenders serving these drinks may be at least partially liable for a patron’s alcohol-related injury or death. Under certain circumstances, bars can—and should—be held responsible for over-serving patrons. Many states have “dram shop” laws (named [..]
The death of a loved one is traumatic and devastating experience— regardless of the cause. However, the ordeal can be especially upsetting if the death could have been avoided had it not been for the negligent actions of another. In Florida, surviving family members and loved ones may be able to recover compensation for [..]
Summertime is quickly approaching, which means barbecues, family vacations, and a lot of days sitting by the pool. While you and your loved ones enjoy the hot summer weather and cool water, it is important to keep yourself safe. In this post we will be focusing on swimming pool injuries and how to prevent them. [..]
Right now, all Florida drivers are required to have car insurance coverage that pays personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, but that may come to an end in 2019 if some lawmakers get their way. Florida currently operates under a “no-fault” system when it comes to paying insurance claims after a car accident. If a [..]
When you become a parent, every little decision regarding your child’s safety and development can become a hot debate. We’re not going to tell you how to raise your child, but we do have one piece of advice backed up with statistics from the AAP and NHTSA. When you are driving with your child, [..]
School is out, but that doesn’t mean your child has to be stuck at home for the summer with no structure and nothing to do. Summer camps are a great way to keep your child active, supervised, and having fun – while also allowing them to branch out. However, summer camps come with a lot [..]
What are your chances of getting hit by someone driving a rental car in Florida? Every year, the state of Florida has 15 million active drivers on its many roads and highways. About 250,000 drivers end up in car crashes annually in Florida. Since almost 85 million visitors come to enjoy Florida every year, [..]
It’s not every day that you get into an accident and need to file a personal injury protection (PIP) suit. This type of litigation may be confusing to many, especially since PIP laws are constantly being debated and changed in Florida. However, it is possible for you to get through this process and receive [..]
Image: http://pixabay.com/en/dog-man-attacking-canine-training-78117/ When Pets Attack, They Can Cause Serious or Even Fatal Injuries Most people like dogs. How can you resist those adoring eyes, the wagging tail, and the warm, fuzzy head that seems to appear in your lap just when you’re feeling your lowest? So many Americans like dogs, in fact, that [..]
The recent death of a Tampa couple is an example of what might have been a potential product liability lawsuit had they lived. On Thanksgiving Day, Kevin and Michelle Livingston were traveling home from a visit to south Florida. Reports indicate that their sport utility vehicle drove into the waters of a canal along [..]
This law firm helped me with my car accident case and helped me to get the most of the medical benefits that were needed after the accident, and gave me fair and helpful expectations on what I would recieve back for the pain and suffering after the accident.