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In light of recent, high profile data breaches at Marriott and Quora and a new government report about Equifax’s breach, consumer group U.S. PIRG Education Fund is launching an online campaign to protect consumers as they use their credit and debit cards to travel and buy gifts this holiday season.
“Breached companies from Equifax to Marriott have failed to clearly explain the risks posed by their breaches and the steps consumers can take to protect themselves,” said Mike Litt, consumer campaign director for U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “Depending on what information thieves steal in a data breach, consumers could be victims of many different types of identity theft and fraud.”
The weeklong online “ID Theft Protection Week” campaign highlights tips for consumers to protect themselves from identity theft and other fraud.
U.S. PIRG Education Fund recommends that consumers take the following steps, whether their information was stolen in high profile breaches or not.
Existing Account Fraud: Check your monthly credit card and bank statements. Use credit cards instead of debit cards for all online and in-person purchases if possible. Consumers have more legal protections against fraud with credit cards and can also avoid having to wait for their banks to replenish funds stolen from checking accounts.
Tax Refund Fraud: File your taxes as soon as possible, before thieves do. Also, if you qualify, get an Identity Protection (IP) PIN.
Social Security Benefits Fraud: Sign up for your “my Social Security” (MySSA) account before thieves claim it and change your direct deposit info to route into their checking accounts.
Health Care Services/Medical Benefits Fraud: Sign up for online accounts with your health care and insurance providers to periodically check for any fraudulent services on your statements.
Other Fraudulent Activity: Check your free annual consumer reports with companies that specialize in collecting information often misused by criminals.
Phishing Scams: Ignore unsolicited requests for information by email, links, phone calls, pop-up windows or text messages.
More tips for protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud are available here.
“Why pay monthly fees for overpriced ID theft services when you can protect yourself for free?” asked Litt.
Your tax-deductible donation supports U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work to educate consumers on the issues that matter, and the powerful interests that are blocking progress.
You can also support U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s work through bequests, contributions from life insurance or retirement plans, securities contributions and vehicle donations.