How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft: Are You Exposed?
On March 11, 2013, a Moscow-based hacker began posting online the personal financial records of numerous celebrities. Within 24 hours, the hacker(s) had published the addresses, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, credit reports, bank records, and credit card statements of rich and famous victims including: Kim Kardashian; Joe Biden; Hillary Clinton; Mel Gibson; Ashton Kutcher, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Sarah Palin, Hulk Hogan, Donald Trump; Arnold Schwarzenegger, Al Gore, Kanye West, Kris Jenner, and Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck. To ironically underscore their self-professed satanic intent, the hacker(s) further infiltrated and broadcast the “Secret Files” of First Lady Michelle Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and, believe it or not, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller. Such a high level of financial espionage logically begs the question: If the wealthy and powerful are vulnerable to financial hacking, how can the average person protect himself against identity theft?
Hacking victim Robert Mueller seems to have a few ideas. In Don’t Let This Happen to You: How to Protect Your Good Name from Identity Theft, the FBI offers the following Do’s and Don’ts:
- Order a copy of your credit report each year from one of the national credit bureaus and review it closely for any questionable entries;
- Shred or cut up all credit card receipts and old bank statements and bills before throwing them away;
- Close all unused credit card or bank accounts;
- Remove your name from mailing lists for pre-approved credit lines and telemarketers;
- Keep your PIN number hidden when you use an ATM or public telephone;
- Contact your creditor or service provider if you notice odd charges or if expected bills don’t arrive;
- Update your computer virus software, use a secure browser, and install a firewall program.
- Give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless YOU initiated contact;
- Carry information like your Social Security Number (SSN) or any PIN numbers or passwords in your purse or wallet;
- Put your SSN on your checks or other identifiers.
If the FBI’s nearly-ten-year-old advice fails to protect, the agency recommends that identity-theft victims take the following actions:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file by notifying one of the national credit bureaus;
- Contact all creditors and financial institutions that an identity thief may have used to conduct transactions in your name and close all tampered accounts;
- Contact your local police department, as well as your local FBI field office, and file a report;
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (the FBI and other law enforcement agencies use these complaints in their investigations). Online identity thefts may also be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
(FBI, 2004, ¶ 3)
One can just envision hacking victims Michelle Obama and Eric Holder on the phone all day with their creditors and financial institutions trying to reclaim their good names. Meanwhile, the hacker(s) are reading about themselves on celebrity news website TMZ.com and decorating their Twitter account with YouTube video clips from Showtime’s Dexter—an award-winning television hit based on the life of a serial killer. At 3:54 PM (PST) on March, 12, 2013, only moments prior to their Twitter account suspension, the Dexter-loving hacker(s) posted this clip and copied in TMZ:
Certainly, the FBI cautions people to manage their personal information carefully. However, at present, there is insufficient protection against vicious hackers with malicious intent. In perhaps “the most unkindest cut of all,” the celebrity hacker(s) have adopted as their website and Twitter motto the following quote from Dexter’s British Invasion (2007) episode: “If you believe that God makes miracles, you have to wonder if Satan has a few up his sleeve.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2004). Don’t let this happen to you: How to protect your good name from identity theft. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2004/october/preventidt_102104
Showtime. (2006). Dexter: Serial killer by night. [Video]. Retrieved March 13, 2013, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UJz0O2NjOo
TheGxenakis. (2011). Dexter best quote—Season 2 episode 12. [Video]. Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le5eS5e9kFI&feature=youtu.be