Data Privacy Day

With data under siege, it’s time for new attitude, new approach to cybersecurity

True or False? There was no way the Office of Personnel Management could have prevented hackers from stealing the sensitive personal information of 4.1 million federal employees, past and present.

If you guessed “False,” you’d be wrong. If you guessed, “True,” you’d also be wrong.

The correct response is: “Ask a different question.” Serious data breaches keep happening because there is no black-and-white answer to the data breach quagmire. So what should we be doing? That’s the right question, and the answer is decidedly that we should be trying something else.

The parade of data breaches that expose information that should be untouchable continues because we’re not asking the right questions. It persists because the underlying conditions that make breaches not only possible, but inevitable, haven’t changed—and yet we somehow magically think that everything will be all right. Of course, we keep getting compromised by a short list of usual suspects, and there’s a reason. We’re focused too much on the “who” and not asking simple questions, like, “How can we reliably put sensitive information out of harm’s way while we work on shoring up our cyber defenses?”

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Tax ID Theft

Beat scammers to your IRS refund check

Here is the IRS’s phone number: 800-829-1040. With an anticipated $21 billion in tax refund fraud this year, you might need it. And that figure doesn’t include losses from dodges like the IRS phone scam, which has been enjoying a renaissance of late.

IRS phone frauds aren’t terribly difficult to detect. You get a call from the IRS saying you owe money and that you must pay immediately. The threat of police intervention may or may not accompany this hot and heavy approach.

Here’s the one-step method: hang up. The IRS doesn’t call asking for money yet.

Let’s say you forget the one-step method. Here are four dead giveaways that it’s a scam:
1.  The IRS never asks for immediate payment.
2.  The agency will never bill you without giving you an opportunity to dispute the claim.
3.  Although you shouldn’t get this far into the conversation, the IRS doesn’t care how you pay, and won’t point you to a particular method.
4.  There will never be any threat involving police or marshals or prison.

If you were starting to feel a little better, stop. Think of tax refund fraud as the clever cousin of the above. It’s not at all easy to detect, or even avoid.

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Get Your Free Credit Report Annually

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to credit reporting companies.

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

The three nationwide credit reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each one of the companies one at a time throughout the year.