October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, which the Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov) says is "a yearly campaign to raise awareness about the importance of cyber security."
Dr. Matthew Hale, Assistant Professor of Cybersecurity at UNO, says long before the huge Equifax breach there was plenty of reason to be concerned about identity theft. He describes identity theft and credit card fraud as “active areas of cyber crime” and "a massive industry”
“It’s surprising how cheap you can actually get people’s information on the black market. It turns out there’s roughly about 16 billion dollars in identify theft and fraud; this was just last year. And it typically affects about 15.4 million Americans – I think that was the 2016 number. Before that, it was slightly smaller. So, I mean, this is not an insignificant number of people that are affected every year.”
Hale says there are several sources of credit card fraud, but one of the most common is a “hacked point of sale system.” He says that is when the credit card terminal at a vendor has been infected with malware, which usually results in your credit card information being communicated with a cyber criminal.
Hale says if you are one of the roughly 148 million people whose information was stolen in the Equifax breach, criminals can potentially open new credit cards or loans in your name. He says freezing your credit is one of the only ways to protect yourself.
The phone numbers for the three major credit reporting agencies are available at consumerfinance.gov
Listen next week for more about protecting yourself from identity theft.