Some of the high-profile data breaches that have made news in the past couple of years offer the most convincing reasons yet to regularly check one's credit report for signs of identity theft and other fraudulent activity.
Even people who carefully keep track of their financial data and take extra measures to avoid identity theft are not immune from the problem. This is especially true when considering how a variety of different companies and institutions maintain their own records that include credit card numbers, medical records, and other information that criminals could potentially try to profit from.
One recent example of this comes from Connecticut's WFSB-TV, which noted that up to 11,000 people may have been affected by data stolen from the state's Office of Policy Management. The report noted that Governor Jodi Rell has ordered the state agency to arrange identity theft protection services for people who may be affected by the data breach.
The television station added that a suspect in the matter turned out to be a temporary worker who had passed a criminal background check before going to work at the agency.
Such developments involving employee misuse of data have becoming increasingly common in recent years.
Elsewhere, a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tells about a significant data breach involving veterans' medical information. One set of the patient information said to have been breached reportedly involved 18 years of data, noted the newspaper.
Medical identity theft is becoming a serious problem in its own right, which is why it is more important than ever for people to be wary of any suspicious activity on their credit report and to investigate any calls from debt collectors about unfamiliar accounts.
Data breaches have become an increasingly common problem as hackers have grown bolder and more sophisticated in their attacks against large institutions, which can store data on millions of people. Some retailers have had to pay large settlements for incidents where financial data was compromised, although individual consumers aren't immune to such problems.
For individual computers, it is important to keep an up-to-date virus protection and to also avoid clicking any spam emails because of the risk that they may contain malware. The same risk may be present in some internet pop-up ads. For paper documents, a shredder is highly recommended to further thwart identity thieves.