Privacy anyone?...Not anymore!

Anna Sergunina, CFP®
Librarian In Charge

‍It has become extremely difficult for consumers to navigate and manage the privacy of their financial and non-financial lives.

The world is changing at a fast speed. Technological advancements allow us to have access to information at the tip of our fingers. But those advancements don’t come without a cost.

We are “plugged in” 24/7. However, this opens a whole new "can of worms" that many of us not equipped to sort through. In order for us to have any information we want, all we need to do is just open a browser, load up Google search and there you have it…an answer to almost any question. Did you ever think that this might be possible?

Various databases and programs exist (collections of information and data) that allow the availability of information instantly. For example: for our finances: TurboTax and www.mint.com; for our health: Medical Information Bureau; for our social lives: Facebook, etc., all of which makes it possible for more people to access information a lot easier and faster, but also it weakens our privacy.

We are victims of our own success. We want it all and we want it now.

Now here is the catch. Since human beings are “social creatures,” we like to belong and to share (think Facebook & LinkedIn). This creates a threat to our personal and private lives.

With the recent news about Russians “hacking” the election of Donald Trump and in 2016, the IRS announced in the middle of tax season that it had been hit by a massive data breach, exposing more than 700,000 individuals, and there are plenty more examples, such as data breaches at LinkedIn, FDIC, and DofD. No person or entity is immune. This creates pressure as consumers face this increasing vulnerability. Most of us have never been exposed to and educated on the subject of how best to protect our personal privacy and information.

Understanding how our personal privacy and identity are exposed is the first step to becoming savvy consumers. Javelin Strategy & Research reports that Americans become victims of identity theft every 2 seconds! That’s scary!!

We need to get involved as soon as possible. Let’s start by understanding where we have the most exposure.

Most common types of identity theft:

1.    Financial/IRS - most familiar to everyone. This is when someone charges your credit or debit card or opens a bank account, or a new loan in your name. This can affect your credit report. According to the IRS, fake tax return filings and refund requests is the fastest growing sector of crime.

2.    Medical - this is when someone uses your information to file false insurance claims. This can cause incorrect medical diagnoses.

3.    Social Security - someone getting a hold of your social security number allows them to cause damage financially (opening accounts in your name) and non-financially as well.

4.    Driver’s license lost or stolen – can be sold to someone who is under age; using it in the case of DUIs and other bad driving violations.

5.    Personal data theft:

•    Email accounts compromised

•    Social media accounts (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) hijacked

•    Mail stolen

I invite you to examine and review these 5 areas to determine if perhaps you might be exposing yourself without realizing it. Some things to consider and ask yourself:

•    Where are you keeping your financial records?

•     How are you protecting your email and social media accounts?

•     When was the last time you updated your passwords?

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