Feature Article
Mark Pribish
ID Theft and Data Breach Lessons from 2012
By Mark Pribish
Vice President and ID Theft Practice Leader

As 2012 comes to a close, many individuals and families will take time to review 2012, including their personal and professional goals.

As individuals and families take stock of the past year, I recommend that you include a consumer risk management approach by increasing your information security awareness to protect your Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

When I talk about consumer risk management, I like to remind consumers that they can take a pro-active approach in identifying and assessing potential risks related to their PII and the relationships they have with businesses and organizations such as auto dealerships, financial institutions, educational institutions, financial service firms, healthcare providers, public entities (local, state and federal government agencies), and tax preparation companies - where some of your most personal and sensitive information is used, transferred and stored.

Information security awareness means being proactive in protecting your PII from unauthorized access, use, disclosure, and/or modification. Examples of being proactive in protecting your PII include education on identity theft crime trends and consumer privacy laws; the use of security software for your home computers and smartphones; the use of a shredding machine and a consumer ID Theft solution.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (see website here), there were 642 data breaches totaling 26.4 million records in 2012 (as of December 13). Since 2005, there have been a total of 3,516 data breaches totaling over 605 million records.

Based on the above, I have listed below some of the headline news from 2012:

  • IRS missing billions in ID theft
  • Hackers turn credit report websites against consumers
  • Verizon found that nearly three-quarters of data breaches were businesses of 100 employees or less
  • Phishing remains one of the most reliable cyber fraud mechanisms
  • Consumers and small business need to have stronger password management
  • Be aware of social media risks
  • Be aware of the insider threat including family, friends, and business associates
  • ID Theft struck almost 12 million victims in 2011
  • Smartphone users are about a third more likely to become an ID Theft Victim
  • Social media users are at greater risk of identity theft
  • Young people are at a higher risk for friendly fraud
  • Friendly fraud victims lost an average of $3,544
  • Phishing and targeted phishing is at an all-time high
  • For military consumers, Identity Theft was the number one complaint category
  • Taxpayer ID Theft estimated to exceed 1 million identity theft incidents in 2012
  • Medical Identity Theft is one of the fastest-growing forma of identity theft

To conclude my 2012 lessons learned include the following four lessons:

  1. No one company can EVER prevent any individual from becoming a victim of ID Theft
  2. No one company can EVER prevent itself from experiencing a data breach event
  3. There is no such thing as having your personal information be 100% secure
  4. Identity theft has become so lucrative that criminals have turned away from individual targets and are focused instead on obtaining complete files of personal information from business entities

I wish you and your families a safe and wonderful holiday season!


To learn more about these threats and how to protect yourself and your family from Identity Theft, you can read my past newsletters at the Merchants Identity Theft Educational Website at www.idtheftedu.com.

Scam Central

Finally! A Text Message that Pays Off! Not!

Around the holiday seasons, having an extra bit of money could put a smile onto anyone's face. Yet that money can be hard to come by. Picking up an extra shift, or a second job to help make the holiday season extra special for the family is a consideration of many people. Now imagine that you have just received a text message stating that you have won a $1,000 gift card from a local big box retailer! Wow, that should make it a happy holiday indeed! But before you respond to that text to claim your $1,000 gift card, you should realize it is a scam.

How It Works:

Out of the blue, you receive a text message from a prominent retailer. Often pretending to be from Target or Wal-Mart - stating that you have won a free gift card. All you need to do is respond to the text or visit a provided website address and fill out some required information to receive your card. But what you are really doing is giving scammers your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and opening yourself to Identity Theft.

Your Defense:

As always, the use of common sense is your best protection. Do you recall entering a contest to win a gift card? Would Target or Wal-Mart even know your cell phone number? These are all questions that should seem obvious, and if the answer is no, simply delete the message and do not act on it. There is no gift card waiting for you to claim. If you choose to respond, you may open yourself to more and more text messages in the future.

If you happen to receive a text message such as this one, you may report it to your cellphone provider and have it blocked as spam in the future. However, you will need to read your provider's policy on blocking spam and follow their procedures. While it may seem like a headache, it will be worth the effort. You may not only be saving yourself from future text scams, but others as well.

If you believe your identity has been stolen, call 866.SMART68 today.