Columbia, Maryland (PressExposure) March 01, 2009 -- Professionals at the National Financial Awareness Network, a Maryland-based personal finance publishing company, are urging consumers to obtain their free annual credit report to help safeguard themselves against identity theft in light of recent data breaches and record-breaking numbers of identity thefts.
In early 2009, Heartland Payment Systems revealed a months-long data breach into their credit card payment processing systems. The affected systems were responsible for over 100 million transactions by approximately 175,000 merchants. While the number of potential victims is unknown, as many as 100 million consumers could be impacted. The Heartland breach exceeds the 94 million customer records lost by retail giant TJX in 2007.
"Consumers should be checking their credit reports each year anyway, but news of these massive data breaches will hopefully give consumers a sense of urgency," said John Janney, President of NFAN. "We are seeing increases in the number of consumers reporting an identity theft."
The number of identity thefts soared by 25 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research. The number of identity theft victims was reportedly 10 million in 2008, a jump of nearly two million from 2007. A majority, 65 percent, reported not knowing how their identity was stolen.
"Identity theft costs consumers and retailers a lot of money," explained Maggie Beetz, Senior Financial Literacy Writer for NFAN. "With the economy still struggling, massive amounts of identity theft fraud is the last thing we need."
Janney said that consumers who discover a potential breach of their personal information may be able to place a credit freeze on their credit file. This would prevent future transactions, such as applying for new credit. To place a freeze, contact one of the three major credit bureaus:
1. Equifax.com 2. TransUnion.com 3. Experian.com
The National Financial Awareness Network is a Maryland-based personal finance publishing company that offers educational products and services, such as the popular Do-It-Yourself Debt Settlement Kit (http://www.diydebtsettlementkit.com/), Debt Relief University ([http://www.debtreliefuniversity.com/]), Help For Debtors online support forum and their How to Get Great Credit e-book. For more information, please visit the NFAN website at http://www.nfan.com.