Do you know those pesky voter phone pollsters that drove you crazy for the two years leading up to the election — and maybe still are? Well one of them just compromised enough of your personal data to target you for the rest of your life. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically.
Voter data on 198 million (yes that’s million) US Citizens was improperly stored and freely available for 12 days on the internet. There has never been a data breach this big. The information includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers, political views, suspected religious affiliations, ethnicities, where they stood on topics like gun control, the right to abortion and stem cell research.
This type of data can easily be used for nefarious purposes, from identity fraud to harassment or intimidation of people who hold an opposing political view. Worst of all, if bad guys have gotten hold of this data, they can send highly personalized phishing attacks to you, looking like something totally legit.
You might not think that 12 days sounds like a long time and that maybe the bad guys did not find it or steal it. Wrong! In a test, a smart toaster was wired to the internet and multiple attempts were made to hack it within 4 hours. Twelve days is a lifetime for data, and once discovered, hacker websites blast it to every cyber criminal out there.
At this point, from here on out, treat any email you get at the house or the office with a healthy dose of suspicion and ask yourself if it could be a scam. Do not click on links in emails and do not open attachments you did not ask for. Remember, Think Before You Click!
But it isn’t just online! Phone scams, door-to-door scams, mail scams, attempts to access your bank accounts, loan and mortgage fraud by people impersonating you, credit card scams, and even attempts to access your computers or functions at work can be successful using this information. Often criminals lay low with this kind of information for years before attempting to profit on it or resell it every couple of years. Most of this data will not change over time and remains valuable.
And for those of you who ask “so what can we do to get our info back?”, the answer is NOTHING.
Just get ready in case —
- You may have some identity theft insurance in your homeowners or renter’s insurance, check it out now and if you don’t have it, you might want to talk to your insurance agent or change companies.
- You might want to get a credit watch service. I get mine through my credit card company. Remember, credit watches are just early warning for when your identity has been used, it doesn’t prevent it from being used.
- You might want to get a commercial service that monitors the internet and lets you know if your data is out there. I personally use Lifelock and Experian is currently advertising this service.