Your identity is not safe regardless of the precautions you have taken because your personal information has been entrusted to companies, institutions and governments that do not secure it properly. Thieves, hackers, insecure databases, stolen laptops, corrupt employees, and lack of proper procedures and policies all contribute to the growing trend of data breaches that affect 10’s of millions of Americans each year.
You will here that 10 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2007 but did you know that 60 million Americans had their personal and confidential information exposed in 2007. Data breaches and identity theft have made mainstream news but few Americans know the full extent of the personal risk they are facing and the economical loss that is incurred by the fraud that is perpetrated by the vast number of criminals who are using your personal information for their own gain.
Though most Americans do little to protect themselves from identity theft this will change as they are educated about the dangers of having their information exposed. What most people don’t know or realize is that an educated consumer is not going to stop the problem. Our personal information is already trusted to others and we continue to hand this information over to others every time we shop, apply for a job, enroll in school, or apply for a state or federal benefit. Our personal information is referred to as data by those who hold it, and though they may have good intentions in regards to keeping this data secure, they are often unable to properly secure it.
Identity theft is a growing concern and hackers from all over the world are targeting the U.S.A. and their intentions are to steal as much money as possible from Americans and the American economy. It is almost impossible to catch these hackers let alone prosecute them as they are protected by the countries and groups that support them.
Everyone knows hackers and thieves can steal their information but did you know how often it happens. The list below is public knowledge, what about those who don’t report their system being hacked or don’t even know that it was hacked. Those who we entrust to protect our information have to become more vigilant in protecting the data they hold.
I am also concerned with the stereotype that identity theft victims are tricked or fall for something that most people believe will not happen to them. Americans have to educate each other about phishing, key loggers, email scams, unsolicited phone calls, and most importantly keeping our private data private.
We must also realize that most identity theft victims became victims through no fault of their own.
This is the first of a four part series that will list some of the data breaches in 2007 so that you will understand that regardless of the precautions you take to secure your identity and financial information you are still at risk because others are not as vigilant.
Part 1 – A Partial List of 2007 Data breaches Via Thieves and Hackers
- TJX, the retailer that operates T. J. Maxx and Marshall’s lost the data of up to 46 million customers as thieves used a insecure wireless network in one store to gain access to the main database.
- Up to 79,000 health insurance customers of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co were affected when a database of a vendor was hacked.
- Stop & Shop Supermarkets customers lost debit and credit card numbers and their pins when thieves successfully tampered with the keypads used to enter information allowing the thieves to receive the pertinent data.
- 46,000 records of students, faculty, and staff associated with UCSF or UCSF Medical Center over the past two years were accessible via a compromised server.
- Thieves stole three years’ worth of tax returns from Tax Service Plus, a Santa Rosa accounting firm affecting 4,000 people.
- A University of Missouri computer database was hacked and more than 22,000 Social Security numbers were stolen.
- The Georgia Department of Human Resources warned parents of 140,000 babies born in Georgia between April 1, 2006, and March 16, 2007 that a security breach has exposed some of their personal and medical information to the risk of fraud.
- Western Union notified about 20,000 customers of a potential compromise of their personal data due to a database intrusion in which thousands of customers had their personal information stolen by hackers.
- A computer hacker gained access to 1,100 of the University of California, Davis veterinary school 2007-08 student applications.
- An employee of Certegy Check Services Inc., a St. Petersburg, Florida, subsidiary of Fidelity National Information Services of Jacksonville, Florida, wrongfully removed and sold the records of 8.5 million customers to a data broker who in turn, sold part of the data to direct-marketing organizations.
- Kingston Technologies Inc., informed 27,000 customers of a data breach that took place in September 2005.
- Law enforcement agents arrested a subcontractor working for Alta Resources, a company that processes and fulfills orders for the Disney Movie Club when the subcontractor sold them credit card numbers and other account information belonging to an unknown number of customers.
- AT&T’s online store was hacked and personal data stolen from approximately 19,000 customers.
- Monster.com was hacked and the confidential information of 1.3 million job seekers was stolen.
- A safe stolen from the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists contained personal information on thousands of hair stylists in West Virginia.
- Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer had a data breach compromising the personal details of up to 34,000 employees.
- Personal records of more than 35,000 Ex-Prisoners of War and their families were stolen from the offices of a P.O.W support organization in Texas.
- A hacker posted the personal contact information and credit card data of 1,200 eBay users on the company’s Trust & Safety forums. The posts were removed promptly by eBay.
- Online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade Holding Corp. reported that one of its databases was hacked and personal information from more than 6.3 million customers was stolen.
- An employee of Certegy Check Services compromised the privacy of up to 8.5 million of its clients customers. Certegy clients include major retail stores among them Amazon.com, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, OfficeMax, T.J. Maxx, and Sears. It is reported that the records were sold for marketing purposes rather than for identity theft.
- 12,000 Clients of Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennesse between 1990 and 2004 may have had confidential lab information exposed when hackers sent phony e-mails whose attachments when opened allowed hackers to access the lab’s computer.
- Clients of Salesforce.com who were on an exposed contact list continued to receive phishing e-mails that may download key loggers. Key loggers if downloaded to your computer allow a hacker to record every keystroke you enter.
- The state of Massachusetts warned 150,000 members of its Prescription Advantage Insurance program that their personal information may have been stolen by an identity thief who has been caught and had already used a small number of peoples information. It is unclear whether the personal information of all 150,000 members has been compromised but state law requires that everyone who may possibly have been affected to be notified.