The statistics are compelling. Over 15 million US citizens are victims of identity theft each year. Annual losses are estimated at $50 billion. With such large sums at stake, one would assume that there are a wide range of services available to help victims recover. That assumption would be incorrect.
Identity theft victims are on their own.
I came to this realization when I became an ID theft victim myself. The internet is awash with services and advice regarding how to prevent identity theft. And, yes, there is a surfeit of lists detailing what one should do to stop the initial “bleeding” once hacked: File an identity theft report with the FTC (identitytheft.gov); file a police report. Call your banks and credit card companies and freeze your accounts. Contact the three credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax) and freeze your credit.
Great advice . . . but then, what?
And how do you deal with these organizations, and many others like them, that present their products, services, and systems as virtually impregnable? The Verizon representative? That Apple Store, Genius Bar guru? The Geek Squad agent? These customer service employees have been trained to deal with simple ID theft related issues, like malware infections, a stolen credit card number, a lost email account, or perhaps a fraudulent loan application. They respond to customer questions but, if those questions are inadequate or ill-informed, seldom take further initiatives. And, when faced with a total ID theft situation, where the victim has lost control of all his/her backup emails and phones, these workers are of particularly limited assistance. Why? Because, according to their employer’s systems and training, such things just don’t happen.
But they do.
When I lost control of my primary gmail account due, presumably, to a keylogger on my computer, I lost control of my cell phone, a Google Fi phone that was linked to that gmail. It was also the phone I used for my two step login verifications. Through account syncing, the hackers took over my other (backup) gmail accounts and, ultimately, all my family computers that shared the same Office 365 subscription. My account passwords and reset codes were changed (Amazon, Gmail, Citibank, Bank of America ….).
Like other ID Theft victims, I was left to fend for myself. I made many mistakes! Hence this epistle, the first of a series of blogs and webinars designed to help others facing these same issues. I will do my best to address the many questions inadequately covered elsewhere, including these:
What should you do with a (potentially) compromised Windows computer? When should you do it? Is a full/deep antivirus scan sufficient to fix the problem? Will a hard reset eliminate the malware/virus? Should you format the hard drive and reinstall the operating system instead? Should you simply replace all computers? Are Macintosh computers immune from viruses?
Can your cell phones be compromised as well? Are your text messages safe? What should you do with a compromised phone and when? Are iPhones vulnerable also? Should you use your home wifi to setup a new phone? Should you download your icloud or OneDrive contacts, photos or other files? What to do with emails on your new phone, and when? What to do when you lose control of your phone? What if you use an authenticator and it’s now on a phone you no longer control? Should you cancel your phone line or just suspend it?
The downside of synced accounts. What should you do with synced accounts when setting up a new computer? Or a new phone? How to recover a lost account? Which new account names and phone numbers are the hackers likely to find out or anticipate? What to do when newly reset accounts continue to be locked due to suspicious activity?
Gmails and Google Fi Phones
The dangers of using one gmail for everything. Which security settings to use and/or not use? How to recover a gmail account? How to set up a new gmail and which account names to avoid? Should you really use your real name and birthday?
Home routers can be infected too. What can/should you do and when?
- The IRS and Social Security
- Lifelock and Password Vaults
- Which Accounts to Cancel and Which Ones to Recover?
- When to Update Bank and Credit Cards Online?
- ID Theft Preparations: More than Just an Online Subscription is Needed
- ID Theft Reality: Why You Cannot Go Back
- . . . . and much more
Subscribe to this blog to see my next postings on this important subject. I will also keep you up to date regarding my upcoming webinars, during which I will answer your ID Theft questions.