There have been more than 500 data breaches in the U.S. every year since 2006, and the total is on pace to eclipse that mark again this year, according to a report from the Philadelphia Business Journal. And while many states now have laws related to how these incidents are reported to affected consumers, it can be difficult for incidents that happen in multiple states because there's no overarching federal law.
As more types of companies collect and store sensitive records containing identifying personal information on computers, we run the risk of hackers and rogue employees accessing our identity through theft of that computer or data.
Because there is no all-encompassing law, legal counsel advise these companies to respond to data breach incidents “in the spirit of the law”, rather than verbatim. However, it’s expensive to contact thousands sometimes millions of people and provide them with services, such as free credit monitoring.
As a consumer, you will likely be alarmed, disturbed and confused if you receive notice that you may have been impacted by a security breach at a company with whom you do business.
If this happens to you, contact the company and see what they are doing to rectify the situation.
Whether or not they will provide you with credit monitoring for free, is an important part of the resolution. Enrolling in credit monitoring will help you identify incidents of identity theft you couldn’t, by simply checking your bank and credit card statements. Credit monitoring also allows you to access your credit report any time you want, and alerts you to significant changes to the information on file. So you are informed every step of the way. It remains one of the best ways to determine whether you’ve been hit by identity theft.
If you do notice anything amiss, you should immediately notify the lender or bank, as well as the major credit bureaus. Doing so will allow you to begin the process of reversing the damage to your finances and credit score.
In addition, you should take time to alert your local police department and attorney general so they are aware of the identity theft. Often, they will have documents that allow you to better dispute fraudulent charges. The more identity theft is reported, the more likely further regulations will be made to protect consumers.