I am an optimist about most things. There are a few things that meet the exception. For instance, I don't have high hopes of the Cowboys coming out with anything more than a mediocre season even though they beat the Saints. I am very pessimistic when it comes to identity theft. However, I am hopeful if people realize the odds of it happening and take the necessary steps. I will get to that.
Marriott announced that 500 million customers in their database have had their information compromised. When you start adding up the numbers of compromised consumer files and start comparing it to the total population, your odds are pretty good that you are positioned for identity theft of some kind. Yet, most people act as if that is not the case. Marriott announced the following:
Among the information stolen on many of the guests includes a combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.
Payment information may also have been accessed on some guests.
My favorite part of the press release is that payment information "may" also have been accessed (read/stolen). I am sure the thieves were able to get payment information. The spin of these companies is ridiculous. I also get that the spin is necessary. I also don't fault companies. Hacking is a real problem even for the companies that are doing everything possible to protect their customers information. Remember, this is a PR nightmare for any major company. They are going to "Wordsmith" the delivery of bad news and put it in the best light as possible. In reality, you can't spin this type of news.
As I said, the hope comes from the levels of protection that are available and no I am talking about LifeLock. Consider these steps:
Take advantage of the new free access to security freezes. You can lock up your credit reports where no one but you can access the data.
Don't give out personal information when approached by email, text, phone call, etc..
Stop using your debit card and switch to a credit card for payment (if you can). Credit cards have 100% fraud protection. Debit cards have limitations plus they are connected obviously to your bank accounts.
Make it a habit of checking your statements at least monthly for unauthorized charges.
Just be aware and careful - that is 90% of the battle.
Identity theft and hacking are big problems... a big problem. Yet, there are steps you can take which is something to be optimistic about.