By now you’ve heard about Equifax’s massive data breach and the 143 million stolen identities. You’ve probably read a few of the 55,000 articles written. While this is the largest reported data breach, this is not the first (remember medical insurer Anthem?). And unfortunately, it will not likely be the last. We know about class action lawsuits and what the cost to firms can be when they report a data breach. In the case of Equifax, the firm has lost about 8% of stock value plus a valuable contract with the IRS. But how much is your stolen identity worth? And what should you be doing about it?
The headlines are enough to haunt your dreams this October. Either way, have you ever considered how much your hacked info is actually worth? Prepare to be insulted, because the truth is – not much.
It turns out that on the “Dark Web” – where anonymous cyber-criminals peddle your swiped info in a seedy version of eBay – your identity isn’t worth as much as you may think. Oh, it’s valuable to be sure. But it’s a buyer’s market out there.
How Much Is Your Stolen Identity Worth?
According to network security analysts at Dell SecureWorks, the average price for a standard packet of info to steal one’s identity is $21.35. That’s right. If you have one crisp Alexander Hamilton in your wallet, you can get a set of data points that includes your ID number, address, and birth date. A thief’s entry point to all you hold dear costs as much as a night at the movies for two. Minus the popcorn.
So, while a snatched identity is a huge cost (and headache) to you, thieves don’t need big bankrolls to afford it. Here are some more price points as published by Quartz:
|HACKER SERVICE||AVG. PRICES|
|Visa or MasterCard credentials||$4|
|American Express credentials||$7|
|Discover credit credentials||$8|
|Date of birth||$11|
|Credit card with magnetic string or chip data||$12|
|Health insurance credentials||$20|
|Social Security # (as part of a full dossier)||$30|
|Bank account # (balance of $70,000 – $150,000)||$300|
|Full dossier with counterfeits of physical documents||$1,200|
Data Breach. So, Now What?
If you’re spooked by these numbers and fear you’ve been hacked, the quick takeaway is to consider your options. Checking with Equifax to confirm whether you HAVE been hacked may give you mixed results. Some report that the security breach checker yields random results, and may be an attempt to boost their TrustID product.
But let’s face it. With 143 million swiped accounts, there’s a good chance you’ve been exposed. So consider these options as found in a CNN article.
1.) Monitor, monitor, monitor.
Get one free copy of your credit report per year from EACH agency: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Request yours here.
2.) Set up a fraud alert on your credit.
Get alerts when someone applies for credit in your name. Alerts are free, renewable, and last 90 days.
3.) Watch your accounts like a hawk.
Experts suggest using your financial advisor to scrutinize your bank, retirement, brokerage, and credit card accounts on a regular basis.
4.) Still worried? Freeze your credit.
Without your permission, access to your credit report is blocked.
This is the path that I took for my family and me. After having been notified of a data breach that occurred with medical insurer Anthem before all this that included my eight-year-old son, I didn’t want to take any chances.
Yes, there is a cost (typically $5 per person to freeze your credit file and another $5 to unfreeze it), but it is short money and it is the best way to protect your identity. Yes, it will require you to take an extra step when you do apply for new credit. This works best when you freeze your credit file at each of the major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian).
And don’t forget to lock the credit of any minor children in your household. While they may not have a credit file to hack, they are juicy targets for thieves. Otherwise, you or your kids won’t find out how badly they may have ruined your credit until years later when your son or daughter actually needs to apply for credit.
Remember: The credit bureaus aren’t collecting all this data on folks for free. You and your data are the product they’re selling. Without fresh credit data, you also are not likely to be a target for a lot of those unsolicited credit offers either.
5.) Stick your head in the sand and hope for the best.
No judgment, this may actually work! This is the same sort of advice I’ve given when it comes to what to do after a market correction. There’s a lot to be said for not losing your head, not panicking, and not overreacting.
Your ego may be a bit bruised now that you know how much your identity is worth. But whether your style is more Option 5 or All-of-the-Above, these simple steps can help reduce your risk and ease your mind. Which means you can focus instead on the things that should be spooking us in October – ghosts, goblins, and packs of kids with rolls of toilet paper and shaving cream.
If you’d like an objective second opinion about your finances, please reach out to Steve Stanganelli, CFP®, CRPC®, AEP® at Clear View Wealth Advisors, LLC. Email him at Steve@ClearViewWealthAdvisors.com.