Winston, OR (PressExposure) January 08, 2010 -- Imagine opening your mail and learning your credit card information had been stolen, and you were being issued a new card. Or imagine discovering your personal information had been compromised over the last six months while shopping at your favorite retail store. The first response people usually have when they've experienced data theft is a feeling of disbelief, which is soon replaced with anger. You've been violated, and now you want answers ... "how could this have happened?"
Is your personal information at risk? Could this happen to you? The truth is - it may have already happened, and hasn't been discovered yet! Consider these shocking facts: As of this writing, there have been 341,824,276 documented security breaches since 2005. (Source: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse)
How bad it's gotten
The largest security breach on record involving payment data was disclosed to the public in January of 2009. It involved Heartland Payment Systems, one of the nations largest credit card processors. This one breach alone involved over 130 million credit card transactions - but the scariest part is it may have been going on for up to 2 years before being discovered.
Unfortunately, the odds of your personal information being stolen is on the increase, especially if you live in Oregon. Oregon is now among the top 5 states in the country with reported identity theft cases, along with CA, WI, PA and RI. (Source: Dataloss db Open Security Foundation).
Here's what you can do
First, become an educated, proactive consumer. Then, use the information you gather to adopt personal policies of how, when, and where you do business. While there are no guarantees your information won't end up being compromised, at least there are things you can do to minimize your risk.
Here are 3 steps you can take to get started:
1. Bookmark websites which track data theft and issue reports on what you can do to combat the problem. An excellent place to begin is with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. You can visit their site at: http://www.privacyrights.org. Once there you can download fact sheets dealing with everything from taking control of your personal information to stopping harassing phone calls. You'll find a lot of good resources at this site.
2. Subscribe to free mailing lists for daily updates on breaches, or, to be notified the moment they're reported. You can get state-by-state information and lots more at: http://datalossdb.org.
3. When you visit a local merchant to shop, ask if they're in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS). The Payment Card Industry Security Council has set standards which all the major card companies have agreed upon. Every merchant who accepts credit cards, even if it's only one transaction a year, is required to meet these minimum data safety standards.
Though ending data theft isn't going to be a reality anytime soon, we'll all be better off the more we learn, and the more precautions we take.