I was so honored to be a presenter at the Bryant Women’s Summit last week. It is always an incredible event and I enjoy attending every year. But the bonus for me this year is that I also got to interact with a lively group of executive and professional women that were eager to learn about the topic: “Take Control of Your Personal Information: Understanding the Risks and Rewards of Using Smartphones, Mobile Applications, and Social Media.”
These powerhouse women kept me on my toes the entire time! They were eager to learn about the mine fields presented by the camera, microphone and location based services settings on their smartphones, about online banking risks, privacy settings with social media accounts, how digital personal assistants are collecting biometric data of children, the mining of data by internet service providers and email platform providers and the aggregation of personal information by companies and how they are using and monetizing personal information.
There were a couple of questions presented that I promised to address during the Privacy Tip this week, including providing sites to access related to specific questions asked during the session.
1.“How do I find out if my information has been compromised?”
2. “How do I know if someone has stolen my identity?”
One of the first things to do to see if anyone has used your personal information to open up an account under your name is to obtain a copy of your credit report. Every individual in the U.S. is entitled by law to obtain a copy of his or her credit report for free from each of the credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) annually. That means you can get three free credit reports a year—one from each company.
In order to obtain your credit report, go to the Federal Trade Commission website (www.ftc.gov) and Consumer.ftc.gov which outlines information for consumers on how to get their free credit report. Or go directly to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. Yes, you have to give your personal information, including your Social Security number so they can authenticate you. And yes, they already have it.
Note that there are scam websites out there that spoof annualcreditreport.com, so don’t be fooled and go through the FTC website to be sure it’s the correct site. Here is a previous blog post about the importance of obtaining your credit report annually to keep a tab on all accounts that are in your name.
3. “How do I find out about scams before I become a victim?”
A great resource is the Federal Trade Commission. One of its missions is to protect consumers. The FTC issues scam alerts that you can subscribe to, which provide notice directly to you of the newest scams it is concerned about. Subscribe to the scam alerts by going to the ftc website www.ftc.gov. I also frequently check the FBI and IRS websites. And of course, subscribe to Robinson + Cole’s Privacy + Cybersecurity blog. We frequently alert consumers to the latest attacks.