With data breaches reaching an all-time high in 2021, more people than ever are receiving data breach letters in the mail informing them that their sensitive information was leaked. While hackers target all types of consumer data, according to the most recent publication by the Identity Theft Resource Center, Social Security numbers are among hackers’ most popular targets by a ratio of about two to one. Read on to learn more about why hackers specifically target Social Security numbers and how you can protect yourself in the wake of a data breach that compromised your SSN.
If you received a data breach letter, it is important that you understand what is at risk and what steps you can take to minimize those risks. And, if you are among the 80 percent of data breach victims who suffered financial losses of more than $1,000, you may also be interested in learning about your right to bring a data breach lawsuit against the company responsible for leaking your information. At the law firm of Console & Associates, P.C., our data breach lawyers investigate breaches on behalf of consumers and help them explore their legal remedies. We offer free consultations to data breach victims, during which we will explain your rights in clear, understandable terms so you can make an informed decision about how to proceed with your case.
To understand why hackers overwhelmingly focus on obtaining Social Security numbers when carrying out a cyberattack, it helps to have a little background in how hacker organizations operate. Typically, the hackers who plan a cyberattack are not the ones who use the stolen information to commit fraud. Instead, they sell this information, either through their network of known criminals or by posting the information for sale on the dark web. Thus, to maximize their profit, hackers target the data types they believe will generate the most profit.
Simply put, hackers target Social Security numbers when planning a cyberattack because they are one of the most valuable types of data out there. The reason for this is that Social Security numbers can be used to commit a wide range of fraud.
Social Security Numbers are highly targeted by hackers.
Social Security numbers have become the unofficial national identifier of the United States. If you want to open a bank account, take out a loan, apply for a credit card or file your taxes, you’ll need to provide your Social Security number. If a criminal comes into possession of your Social Security number, they can carry out a few different types of fraud.
Perhaps the most common type of identity theft involves a criminal using your Social Security number to open up a new line of credit, such as a personal loan or credit card. One of the reasons why this is so common is that it’s incredibly easy for a criminal to open an account in your name online. To do so, all they would need is your name, address, birth date and Social Security number. And, if a criminal doesn’t have the other pieces of information on hand, they can usually obtain this data relatively easily through an online search or a database of previously leaked information.
Tax refund fraud involves a criminal filing a fraudulent tax return on your behalf in hopes of obtaining your tax refund. To do this, all they need to do is fill out a tax return in your name (but with their payment information) and file it before you do. Unfortunately, victims of tax refund fraud may not know they’ve been targeted until the IRS rejects their tax return because, in the IRS’s system, it’s already been filed.
State and federal benefits are all tied to your Social Security number, including SNAP, EBT, and unemployment benefits. Thus, if a hacker has your Social Security number along with your basic information, they can file for benefits on your behalf. If you currently receive government assistance, hackers can even use your SSN to change the payment information, diverting the benefits to their own accounts. Not surprisingly, resolving public benefits fraud can be extremely time-consuming, given all the red tape involved in dealing with the state or federal government to verify your identity.
Cybercriminals often sell stolen Social Security numbers to individuals who are looking to obtain medical care but don’t want to pay for it. Instead, these fake patients buy your information and, pretending to be you, they go to the doctor to receive treatment. At the doctor’s office or hospital, they give the provider your information, including your Social Security number and, if they have it, your insurance information. When the doctor asks the fake patient about their medical history, current medications, allergies or anything else about their health, they will provide the doctor with their own information to ensure they receive the appropriate treatment. This can result in a situation where your medical record contains inaccurate information the next time you go to the doctor for treatment.
One of the scariest types of fraud is criminal identity theft. Criminal identity theft is different from the other types of SSN-based fraud because, in this context, criminals don’t actually use your information to commit a crime. Instead, they provide your information to law enforcement if they are arrested for committing another crime. This results in you ending up with an arrest record and, potentially, a criminal record. Of course, most states have passed legislation allowing victims of criminal identity theft to clear their records; however, doing so often takes months.
The risks involved with any data breach are very real; however, those breaches involving your Social Security number are especially serious. If you recently learned that your Social Security number was leaked as a result of a data breach, it is imperative that you give the situation the attention it deserves.
At Console & Associates, P.C., our data breach lawyers actively monitor all security and data breaches and help consumers understand and pursue their remedies. Companies that negligently store your information leading up to a data breach can and should be held accountable. These data breach lawsuits can not only provide you with meaningful compensation for everything you’ve been put through but also encourage companies to take their data privacy responsibilities more seriously in the future. If you’ve been affected by a data breach or any, Console & Associates, P.C., will investigate your case at no charge and offer you thorough advice about how to most effectively proceed with your case. If you decide to bring a case, we only get paid if you do. If your claim is successful, any legal fees are either paid by the defendant or come out of the funds recovered from the defendant. If your claim doesn’t result in a recovery, you will pay nothing.