If you aren't concerned about someone stealing your online data,
you should be. If you have internet access, you are a potential
victim of having your personal information stolen. In the past few
years, hackers have broken in and obtained the account information
of millions of consumers.
Two separate major hacking incidents occurred with Sony over
the past three weeks. Hackers may have stolen personal information
from approximately 25 million accounts from Sony Online Entertainment.
In a separate attack on the PlayStation Network and Qriocity, sensitive
details were at risk for 77 million customers, according to CNN.
Personal information included name, address, email address, birthdate,
PlayStation password and log in. In addition, the hackers may have
stolen password security answers and credit card information.
Sony is certainly not the only major corporation to be the target
of a massive heist. Last year, 130 million accounts were stolen
from a payment processing company, Heartland Payment Systems. In
2007, 46 million accounts were stolen from TJ Maxx and Marshall's.
Even MasterCard had 40 million accounts compromised in 2005.
Here are some steps and precautions you can take to protect yourself
from online hackers:
1. Change your passwords from time to time. Don't publicly post
anything you may use as a password: your birthdate, pet's name,
mother's maiden name, or your school. Identity thieves can use the
information you post to guess your password. Consider using
something like: a free password generator and password safe.
An example would be
which is an open source.
2. Do not email your credit card number to anyone. Currently,
there are many phishing scams using Sony's name. Sony, or any other
company, will not contact you and ask for your social security number,
credit card number or other personal information. Be cautious about
opening any attachment or downloading any files from email you receive,
regardless of what company sent them. You can forward phishing emails
3. Monitor debit and credit cards for suspicious purchases at
least weekly. If you feel your card information was stolen, consider
canceling your linked card. Be persistent with watching your accounts--it
may be months or even a year before thieves actually use your card.
4. Check your credit reports. You can get one free credit report
every year from each of the three credit bureaus. Visit
or call (877) 322-8228 to order. Stagger these reviews throughout
the year in order to catch anything that isn't correct in your account.
5. If you use a wireless router, password protect it and enable
the encryption to scramble the data you send online.
6. Use your credit card instead of debit card. Credit cards offer
stronger fraud and identity theft protections. This is as simple
as marking "credit" on the transaction machines at most stores.
7. If you feel your information has been compromised, place a
fraud alert at the three major credit bureaus. Call Experian at
888-397-3742; Equifax at 800-525-6285; and TransUnion at 800-680-7289.
You can put a security freeze on your files.
8. Ask your credit union or bank if it has free software to protect
your online banking and bank account.
9. If your information has been stolen,
file a complaint
with the Federal Trade Commission. The data is used to create
a picture of wrongdoing. Unfortunately, the FTC won't get your money
10. Consult with a
Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS®) to assist
you in personalizing your identity theft prevention actions.
These highly skilled professionals are trained and certified by
the ICFE. More information is available at
ICFE eNEWS is available
FREE upon request by visiting our Web site and filling out the
form, with the words "eNews request" included in the comments
field. Please pass this eNEWS on to your peers and interested others
and invite them to subscribe for free.
Paul S. Richard
President - Executive Director
Institute of Consumer
Financial Education (ICFE)
About the ICFE:
The Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE) was founded in 1982 by the late Loren Dunton (creator of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation). The ICFE is dedicated to helping consumers of all ages to improve their spending, increase savings and use credit more wisely.
The ICFE is an award winning, nonprofit, consumer education organization that has helped millions of people through its education programs and Resources. It publishes the Do-It-Yourself Credit File correction Guide, which is updated annually. The ICFE has distributed over one million Credit/Debit Card Warning Labels and Credit/Debit Card Sleeves world wide.
The ICFE became an official partner with the Department of Defense/Financial Readiness Campaign in June of 2004.The ICFE was an active partner in the California Student Debt Resource Awareness Project (CASDRAP) which resulted in a new web site: (studentdebthelp.org). CASDRAP disbanded in 2010, shortly after the web site project was completed. In 2011 the ICFE assumed the single sponsorship of the (studentdebthelp.org) web site and is now responsible for its content and operation.
The ICFE is also an on-line help for consumers who spend too much. ICFE's spending help was featured in PARADE Magazine in the Intelligence Report section. The money helps and tips are from the ICFE's Money Instruction Book, our course in personal finance.
Visit the ICFE's other web sites at: www.financial-education-icfe.org and studentdebthelp.org. Both sites helps consumers and students with mending spending, learning about the proper use of credit, budget and expense guidelines, how to set up and implement a spending-plan and also how to access financial education courses and how to teach children about money. Other ICFE services include: Ask Mr. G, a free eNews, and an online resource center for students, parents and educators, plus financial education learning tools and a book store.