Equifax, offering settlements for data-breach victims, Capital One subject to class-action suit |

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Identity
theft and related breaches of personal, confidential information are a major
problem in modern society. Hundreds of millions of Americans and billions of
people world-wide place their trust in various companies to keep their personal
information secure.

According
to a 2018 study from Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2017 there were 16.7
million victims of identity fraud in the U.S. alone. Financial services firms,
insurance companies, and health care providers have introduced various means to
help prevent the loss of confidential information, such as the introduction of
the chip card, But breaches unfortunately continue to occur.

Results
of identity fraud can be near catastrophic. Even when everything gets restored
and the thieves are behind bars, such a crime could cost the victim thousands
of dollars, cost them a chance to buy a home or a car, and can even lead to the
loss of a job or the rejection of a job offer.

Equifax
offers settlement for data-breach victims

One
of the world’s foremost credit-reporting agencies, Equifax, suffered a data
breach in September 2017, which exposed the personal information of 147 million
people. In July, a federal court ruled the company must compensate those whose
private information was compromised in the breach. According to the Federal
Trade Commission, “The Company has agreed to a global settlement with the
Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S.
states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help
people affected by the data breach.”

If
you suspect you have been a victim – and millions of Americans are – you can find
out by visiting www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com, entering your last name and
the last six digits of your Social Security Number. From there, you can file a
claim online and receive your share of the compensation which can include up to
$20,000 per person if losses occurred. At the very least, victims can receive
four years of free credit monitoring from the three credit-reporting bureaus (Equifax,
Experian and Trans Union), along with $1,000,000 of identity-theft insurance
and six more years, on top of the initial four, of monitoring your Equifax
credit report. Those victims who were under the age of 18 as of May 2017 are eligible
for 18 years of free credit monitoring.

Capital
One facing class-action suit

Capital
One, one of the nation’s 10 largest banks, suffered a similar data breach just
recently where a reported 100 million people or more had their personal,
confidential information compromised. The company disclosed the breach on July
29.  

According
to Forbes, “customer data accessed by the hacker includes full names, physical
addresses with full ZIP and postal codes, phone numbers, email addresses, dates
of birth and self-reported income — information that is typically requested on
credit card applications. Capital One said credit scores, credit limits,
account balances, payment history, and contact information was also stolen.”

As
a result, a class-action lawsuit has been filed in the United States District
Court in Virginia on behalf of the victims by the law firm Morgan and Morgan.

How
to keep your personal information secure

If
you have been victimized by identity theft, or if you suspect your private data
has been compromised, experts say there are a number of things you can do. Organizations
such as LifeLock and Identity Guard offer protection services for a moderate
fee.

Without
paying for protection services, which most experts say are well worth the price
charged as long as the company is legitimate, there are number of safeguards
you can do; most of these are common-sense practices but ones experts say many
Americans are not doing, or at least not doing well enough.

First
and foremost, do not give out personal information like your Social Security number,
date of birth, mailing address, full legal name, etc., out without being 100%
sure you are providing it to a reputable source. This sounds simple enough, but
far too often, experts say, we give out this information over the phone, via
text message or online.

Do
not use free public wi-fi when you are transmitting any sort of personal
information, such as logging into your bank account or even applying for a job.
Public wi-fi at places like coffee shops and restaurants are often unsecured,
and entering an establishment-provided password, such as coffee123 at your
favorite java-to-go store, does not secure the connection. Browsing the web to
read the latest headlines or get last night’s sports scores on your phone,
tablet or laptop is fine, but even checking your email can expose you to
hackers, experts warn.

The
best bet is to be diligent; keep close tabs on your bank accounts and other
financial statements you receive, be it electronically or via snail-mail. Do
not hesitate to contact your credit card company, bank, or even a utility
company if something seems amiss, even if very slightly. Also, make sure your
electronic devices are up to date with a legitimate firewall and anti-virus
software, and do not wait on installing the recommended updates.

Shred
or burn all documents that contain personal information, and create complex
passwords for anything you have that requires a login and do not use the same
password for multiple accounts. Good passwords are long, contain a mix of
numbers, letters and characters, and cannot be easily guessed, e.g. your dog’s
name followed by 789, your child’s date of birth or your wedding anniversary.