If you have been to the DMV recently, there is a possibility they are selling personal information that belongs to you to a third-party. You might not think of privacy when you think of a government-issued ID, but DMV privacy is a serious matter. For years, consumers have been cautioned about protecting their sensitive information and not handing it over to anyone who asks for it. From summer camps to schools or doctors’ offices, the amount of sensitive information that some entities gather and store is more than one might think. Often, these organizations do not even know why they are collecting such an invasive amount of data and how it is being protected.

What do you do when you have no choice but to comply? After all, you are not getting a credit card, a home or even utilities without turning over a lot of your data. You also have no way of knowing how it will be protected, who can access it, and worse, what the organization can do with it intentionally.

A new report by Motherboard sheds light on a very alarming trend: DMVs in several different states are selling personal information that belongs to drivers’ to third-parties for as little as one cent per record. While the DMVs claim they did not sell photographs or Social Security numbers, many of them acknowledged that one of the biggest clients they are selling personal information to is private investigators.

An individual can hire a private investigator to gather information on you or surveil your location, and the private investigator may be very successful in learning more about you thanks to the information that was legally purchased from your own driver’s license office. This is especially chilling since many private investigators openly state they will take cases involving cheating spouses or divorce. The potential for an abusive partner to hire a private investigator and track down the whereabouts of a former partner is bone-chilling.

Unfortunately, this is also legal. Under a nearly thirty-year-old law called the “Driver’s Privacy Protection Act,” or DPPA, the DMV can legally profit by providing your data to outside agencies like towing companies, insurance providers and private investigators. That is especially troublesome since there is no nationwide set of standards and ethics for public investigators, and in some states, it requires nothing more than paying what amounts to a filing fee to become licensed.

What is the public supposed to do about DMVs selling personal information? Unless you can successfully live completely off the grid, and have done so for your entire life, ensuring that no one has your information, there is not much you can do. If you want to drive a car or carry state-issued photo identification, your information is going in the computer. Depending on where you live, it is lining their coffers, too.

However, you can take action to get the DPPA changed. Lawmakers are already investigating whether this law is too outdated in the current climate of data breaches, identity theft and privacy violations.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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Advertisement Scams

While a few social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are household names, there are many more that have dedicated followings, even if they do not have the same user base. One relatively new video-based platform is TikTok, which combines the fun of longer videos and posts like Instagram with the curated video feed format of Vine. The result is a 14 million-fan platform that uploads countless fifty-second videos on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, a new study has found that scammers have also infiltrated this site and are using it to promote everything from dating apps to financial fraud. This is especially alarming considering the numbers of children and teens who use TikTok regularly.

  • Some of the scams are obvious teasers for explicit adult content. Using stolen images and video clips, scammers entice viewers to click through to a different platform and pay money for access to pornography. Other platforms, like Snapchat, do not require users’ phone numbers if they want to send messages, and are therefore a little harder to track and block
  • Other TikTok scams have been uncovered that offer users the chance to buy high numbers of followers. Since many of these followers are fake accounts, it literally serves no purpose other than to make other users think you are important or popular due to your high follower count
  • Finally, researchers uncovered bogus accounts that masquerade as other users, especially celebrities, in an effort to get more followers. Once the scammer has a lot of followers, they can monetize by posing as an “influencer” who can promote products and brands

None of these scams are inherently unique to TikTok, but at the same time, TikTok is precisely as problematic as any other platform for its potential to cause harm to unsuspecting users. It is very important that users—and users’ parents, if the account holders are underaged—know the ins and outs of how different social media sites work before engaging with other users and their content.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM): Own It. Secure It. Protect It.

 

What is it:

Fake advertisements on social media platforms

Who is it targeting:

Social media users, consumers who have searched for specific products

How does it work:

Social media platforms are filled with advertisements for different products and services. Advertising revenue is how those companies can stay in business while not charging their users a fee for the service. However, some ads are legitimate offers for great products, while others are advertisement scams. These links steal your money and never provide the product, redirect to fake websites that steal your personal data and require you to install software that turns out to be malicious.

It can be very tricky to tell the difference between an advertisement scam and a legit ad. Until you can be certain of the ad’s safety, it is best to ignore the ad and search for the product name and website on your own. If you do recognize the ad’s platform (like Amazon or Walmart, with no other names listed in the address) then it is probably safe to click.

What you can do about it:

  • Beware the “too good to be true” ads that offer innovative products for pennies on the dollar
  • Watch out for “snake oil” health remedies and weight loss solutions
  • Be mindful that these bogus ads can target children, too. Talk to your family about safe clicking and avoiding spam and viruses

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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What is it:

“Flipping” scam that promises you big money on social media

Who is it targeting:

Social media users on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and more

How does it work:

A flipping scam looks a lot like a pile of cash, at least in the picture accompanying the post. A user on the same platform shows the image and promises that you, too, can earn this kind of money for sending in only a little bit of upfront payment. Their post may even have a lot of comments from people who claim to have already benefitted, thanking the person for bringing them into this kind of wealth. Be warned: those people are not real and neither is the money.

A flipping scam plays off the old concept of an illegal pyramid scheme, in which you send in $100 and get ten people to send you their $100, and so on. However, this one does not even bother going that far. You send your money to the scammer, and that is the end of it.

What you can do about it:

  • Remember that things, and people, are not always what they seem on the internet
  • It is very easy to create fake accounts, fake posts and fake followers
  • Some of these scams want prepaid debit cards or gift cards, but remember that those are just as insecure as cash

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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At the Identity Theft Resource Center, we often receive a phone call from someone who has made the brave decision to remove themselves from a situation involving domestic violence and abuse, only to discover their abusers have stolen their identities. Whether these victims have physically left the shared residence or are still planning their escape, they realize they need independent financial resources. Sadly, that is when far too many victims discover they have been a victim of identity theft at the hands of their abuser.

How does identity theft play a role in domestic violence? Opening a credit card in the victim’s name, stealing a partner’s identity and using it illegally and other forms of coercion are all types of domestic violence, according to New York-based Vera House.

The decision to escape is hard enough. Discovering that they now carry insurmountable debt, an ongoing connection to their abuser and even potential criminal charges (for things like passing bad checks) can become a breaking point for some victims. Worse, it can cause them to reverse their decision because they mistakenly believe they cannot escape with identity theft hanging over them.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as part of the initiatives to help the public access information and resources, the ITRC is speaking out about support that is available for victims who also face identity theft. Remember, domestic violence can encompass financial fraud and identity theft; in fact, one study in Texas found that one out of every three residents who called the National Domestic Violence Hotline in 2018 had already experienced economic or financial abuse.

A study by the Allstate Foundation Purple Purse found that:

  • Fifty-five percent of respondents reported being or knowing a victim of domestic violence or financial abuse, but less than half (44 percent) have talked about the topic with a family member or friend.
  • Seventy-one percent of those who have experienced financial abuse think the most effective way to keep victims from returning to their abusers is through financial empowerment.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation and believes they may also be victim of identity theft, we recommend the following steps:

Get a credit report immediately

You can do this for free at annualcreditreport.com, and it can be done from any computer with internet access. Look to see if there are suspicious charges or outstanding debt related to your Social Security number.

Be prepared for retaliation

If your credit report does not show signs of fraud, that does not mean it cannot happen after you leave. Monitor your report and your accounts frequently to look for anything out of the ordinary.

Place a freeze on your credit

You can freeze your credit report for free in order to prevent anyone from opening new lines of credit in your name, but remember, it takes a little time to “thaw” it. If you are going to need your credit to find a new place to live, purchase your own vehicle, activate utilities at your new address or other similar purposes, you will need to leave it unfrozen. Also remember that any minors who are coming with you may be victims as well, so placing a freeze on their credit can protect them from someone else’s fraud, too.

Contact your financial institutions and make them aware of the situation

It can be hard to tell others about your situation in cases like this, but it is important that certain entities know. Your financial institution will handle the information sensitively, and you need to inform them of major changes concerning who can access your accounts or information.

File for separation and a restraining order

Filing for separation helps you begin to legally unbind yourself from your former partner. This is especially important if they have committed any kind of financial or identity fraud with your name. Without filing, you are still legally considered to be the debt holder and responsible for the charges. The restraining order is to protect both your physical person and your identity, and it gives you legal recourse if your former partner targets you or your data. For more help with domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit https://www.thehotline.org/ 

For more information on how you can recover from identity theft and how you can take action to protect yourself, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center’s toll-free hotline or contact an agent via chat on idtheftcenter.org.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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According to our 2018 End-of-Year Breach Report, there were a total of 372 data breaches in the medical and healthcare sector that exposed over 10 million records. As of September 2019, there have already been 368 data breaches that have exposed over 36 million records in the sector – poised to push well past the 2018 statistics. In the last two years, the ITRC has seen an increase in medical and healthcare data breaches – more than any other category we track, aside from the business sector.

Sign up for the ITRC Monthly Breach Newsletter for more information on these data breaches.

This is one reason why the Identity Theft Resource Center has been working to empower identity theft victims with the resources and tools to resolve their cases since 1999, including helping people proactively reduce their risk of becoming a victim of identity theft – especially of their highly sensitive personally health information (PHI). Since 2005, the ITRC has recorded over 10,000 publicly notified data breaches with monthly and cumulative end-of-year reports.

Last week we took a look at some of the largest business data breaches. This week we shift our attention to the top five most impactful medical and healthcare data breaches for consumers.

Anthem

In February 2015, Anthem suffered what is considered to be the largest medical and healthcare data breach and the largest Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) settlement in the United States. Nearly 80 million consumers were impacted with information like names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment data being compromised. Minors on their parent’s healthcare plans were affected, which is particularly troubling due to the long shelf-life of the static data (SSNs) that was compromised. Anthem agreed to take corrective actions in 2018 by paying the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights $16 million to settle the violations of HIPAA Privacy and Security rules. This created awareness among consumers that while their health information was regulated under HIPAA, that didn’t mean that it wasn’t at risk for exposure – and not just their health information but a host of other components to their identity.

American Medical Collection Agency

Third-party billing and collections agency, American Medical Collections Agency, experienced a medical and healthcare data breach with an intrusion in its payment system in March of 2019. That intrusion exposed personal information of millions of patients. Over 24 million people and 20 entities (so far) were affected by this breach, including Quest Diagnostics who reported approximately 11.9 million of their patients were impacted. Some of the data exposed included names, dates of birth, payment card numbers, names of labs or medical service providers, dates of medical services, referring doctors, banking information, Social Security numbers and certain medical information like patient account numbers and health insurance numbers. The information exposed varied entity to entity since the same information was not provided to AMCA for their patients. As of this blog’s publish date, we’re still receiving notifications of medical industry organizations that were victims of this breach – we will continue to update the numbers as we receive them in our monthly Data Breach Report.

Premera Blue Cross

Major healthcare services provider Premera Blue Cross announced a data breach in March of 2015 that impacted over 11 million of its customers. The data breach was caused by hackers pretending to be Premera IT, sending employees phishing emails with links containing malware. This data breach affected both Premera Blue Cross and Premera Blue Shield of Alaska, as well as their affiliate brands Vivacity and Connexion Insurance Solutions, Inc. Names, birthdays, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, member ID numbers, bank account information and claims information that could have been included in clinical information were some of the information exposed. In July 2019, Premera Blue Cross paid a total of $74 million ($32 million in damages and $42 million to improve data security) as part of a settlement. Premera will pay $50 to any class member who submits a claim, and up to $100,000 if class members can provide documents showing proven out-of-pocket damages from the breach.

Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield

Blue Cross had another breach just six months later, this time including health insurer Excellus Blue Cross Blue Shield. This medial and healthcare data breach affected over ten million plan members and vendors. The cyberattack began in December 2013 and was not detected by Excellus until nearly two years later. Information such as names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, claims and financial payment information (including some credit card numbers) was compromised.

Virginia Department of Health Professionals

In May 2009, the Virginia Department of Health Professionals (DHP) announced a security breach impacting the agency’s Prescription Monitoring Program. DHP discovered the breach one month prior after a message was posted on the Prescription Monitoring Program website by a hacker claiming to have stolen eight million patient records and 35.5 million prescriptions. In fact, the message included a ransom note demanding $10 million in seven days or the hacker would sell the data to the highest bidder. The breach was first reported on WikiLeaks.

As we recap the last 10,000 breaches, the ITRC hopes to help those impacted – both consumers and businesses fall victim to the nefarious acts of fraudsters – understand how to minimize their risk and mitigate their data compromises. Medical/healthcare breaches don’t just impact health information. As we can see by these examples, static information like Social Security numbers, date of birth can also be gleaned by those harvesting data through breaches – which puts consumers at an even higher risk of every aspect of identity theft (not just medical).

If you ever receive a data breach notification letter, do not just toss it aside or throw it away. Call us toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat to talk with a live-advisor on what you should do. If you are a business impacted by a data breach incident, please reach out to the ITRC to discuss how we can provide assistance to your impacted customers.

As part of this series, in our next 10,000 Breaches Later blog we will take a look at some of the largest government and military breaches since 2005 and what they meant for consumers. For a look at all of ITRC’s 10,000 breaches blogs, visit https://www.idtheftcenter.org/10000-data-breaches-blog-series/

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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The second Wednesday in October is one of the most important holidays we have since it impacts every single citizen in the world. National Stop Bullying Day is not only an awareness campaign about a crucial global issue, it is also one that impacts young and old, rich and poor, every race and nationality.

There was a time when bullying meant schoolyard taunts or some rude graffiti. Now, it encompasses horrific crimes like cyberbullying, including sextortion, doxxing, identity theft and account takeover.

The first step to stopping these and other cyberbullying problems is to understand when it is even happening. For too many people, especially parents of younger victims, the truth only emerges after something far more serious occurs. This guide contains more details, but some common signs include withdrawing emotionally, repeatedly missing school or work for no apparent reason, increased need for funds and dramatic behavior changes.

The organization Stomp Out Bullying has some great resources for this year’s important campaign, which can be found on their website. This article by the Cybercrime Support Network can also help. However, recognizing that cyberbullying is a very serious matter, one that can affect adults as well as young people, is the most important step anyone can take to avoiding this threat.

Stay Safe Online also offers a lot of helpful solutions, such as:

Be aware of the threat and who is at fault

Cyberbullying can encompass a lot of different behaviors, including identity theft. Knowing when you or someone else is being bullied online is important. An innocent person can be targeted by a hateful “keyboard commando,” but it is important to examine our own behaviors and make sure our interactions are positive and supportive, and do not lead to escalating behavior.

Keep a record

Too often, the issue escalates but the posts that began the problem get lost. Without evidence, there is little that schools or law enforcement can do to the offender. Screenshot and save these posts in order to provide proof so that action can be taken.

Talk, talk, talk

Without open, ongoing conversation about cyberbullying, many victims feel powerless to put a stop to it. Make sure to have numerous conversations with your family before and after allowing computers and devices in the home.

File a complaint when a problem is detected

It can feel like cyberbullying is a faceless crime, but it is actually not. Someone is behind it, whether it is a stranger or someone you know. Even if there is not much that can be done to prosecute an offender in a given situation, having a record of it with the police will be important if it escalates or involves identity theft.

Shut it down

A lot of people love their devices, and technology addiction is a recognized problem. However, when it comes to someone’s health and happiness, stopping the bullying is more important. You can start by blocking the offender on these platforms, but that might not be enough. It might mean avoiding a certain account or platform altogether, or simply creating a new account. That will be far healthier in the long run than enduring others’ abuse.

The single most important thing you can do if you or someone you know is being bullied online is to take it very seriously. There is no such thing as “harmless” insults in a world where anonymity combined with access to personal information affords perpetrators the ability to hurt people. Talk to the people you care about and provide support when it is needed.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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Halloween is not the only celebration to look forward to at this time of year. Every October, the National Cybersecurity Alliance hosts a consumer-awareness event, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, also known as #CyberAware month, based on protecting you from harm. This month-long celebration of digital security and privacy promotes safer connectivity, healthy device use and a better understanding of how to keep your identity and data from falling into the wrong hands.

This year’s theme is “Own It. Secure It. Protect It.” In other words, the tech public is being cautioned to take more of a sense of control over their own protection, starting with how they engage online.

#CyberAware month is dedicated to understanding how you can have ownership over your privacy and security, and StaySafeOnline has the following tips:

Never Click and Tell: Staying Safe on Social Media

Social media is one of the biggest pitfalls to our privacy, partly due to the way different platforms collect, store and sell information. However, a lot of users also have to take some of the blame for oversharing and not locking down their accounts.

Oversharing is when you tell too much about yourself online. It might be spreading around your full name, address, or email or giving away too many details about where you live or work. You might be revealing too much about your family members, even your children. Some users even give away too much information about their present locations, including the exact coordinates and street address.

Remember, strong privacy settings on all of your accounts can help keep others from seeing too much, but with shareable content, someone else might be able to get in. You do not have to tell all you know when you post, and you certainly do not have to post birthdates, locations, the names of your children’s schools and your maiden name if you have one. Guard that information and remember that all of those little details are pieces of your complete identity puzzle.

Update Privacy Settings

The privacy settings mentioned above determine who can see your posts and your profiles, and they also determine which of your friends can share your content. If you post a nice family photo of a relative’s birthday, depending on your privacy settings, one of your friends can innocently share it to their profile so that other family members can see it. From there, it can make the rounds and end up in a hacker’s inbox.

On some platforms, there are default settings that you have to manually adjust to your comfort level. On others, some of your posts are public and some can be kept private. It is important that you understand how each platform works and what your privacy settings are before you use them.

Keep Tabs on Your Apps

The apps you install on your devices and the accounts you establish online might be just another part of using technology, however they can also come back to haunt you. If you have reused your username and password on multiple apps and accounts, if you have connected your social media profiles to your apps in order to log in faster or if you have not updated your apps or accounts in a while—just to name a few of the potentially harmful problems—then you may not be protected.

Remember, hackers want information. They use that information to get even more information, and then they can go after bigger payoffs. It is important that you understand what you are installing, what accounts you are creating and how to protect them and when you must update these things in order to stay safe online.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is about welcoming fall and enjoying some spooky fun, but there is nothing fun about cybersecurity lapses. Take the time this NCSAM month to protect yourself and develop good habits that will keep you safe all year.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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Popular game developer Zynga is the company behind such widely popular apps as Words with Friends, Farmville and Draw Something, but these games are not only popular with smartphone users. A well-known hacker named Gnosticplayers has claimed responsibility for stealing the login credentials for around 200 million Android and iOS users who had downloaded those and other games.

These games allow users to find friends online and play long-distance games, as well as to engage in fun challenges with strangers within the safety of the app. Unfortunately, a hacker was able to inject themselves into the system that controls things like usernames, passwords, email addresses and any Facebook accounts that were connected to the app in order to speed up login as part of the Zynga data breach.

While the hacker did not necessarily grab any highly-sensitive information, the information that was stolen in the Zynga data breach can easily be used for malicious purposes. These include spam emailing, scams and phishing attempts. Of course, any users who reused a password on their apps, meaning one that they use on other unrelated accounts, may have put those other accounts at risk as well.

Zynga is urging all of its users who downloaded these apps prior to September 2019 to change their passwords immediately. If you connected the app to your Facebook profile, it is a good idea to go into your settings and remove that connection, then change your Facebook password just to be safe.

In the future, there are two really important things you can do to minimize the risk from this kind of attack like the Zynga data breach.

First, never reuse a password or use one that is easily guessed.

Anyone who nabs your password in any data breach has automatic access to every account where you have reused it.

Second, avoid connecting your apps, especially frivolous ones like games, to your social media accounts.

It might make it easier to login and you can post updates on how many levels you have beaten at some random three-in-a-row game, but you are also opening yourself up to possible harm.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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On September 26, 2019, a DoorDash data breach was announced by the popular food delivery app, leading to hackers accessing the company’s data system. Approximately 4.9 million customers, restaurants and delivery workers had their personal information exposed, including their driver’s license numbers, names and addresses and bank and credit card information. Users who joined after April 5, 2018 were not affected by this breach.

In a security notice regarding the data breach, DoorDash said earlier this month they became aware of unusual activity involving a third-party service provider. They then immediately launched an investigation that led to the determination they were hacked on May 4, 2019. DoorDash continued on to say that customers who signed up before April 5, 2018 potentially had their names, email addresses, phone numbers, order histories and the last four digits of their credit and debit cards exposed. However, full credit and debit card information was not accessed.

Delivery workers and restaurants could have had the last four digits of their bank account numbers taken. However, once again, the full bank information was not accessed. Approximately 100,000 delivery workers also had their driver’s license numbers hacked.

The food delivery app says they are reaching out directly to those affected by the DoorDash data breach with specific information about what was accessed. If consumers have any questions, comments or concerns, DoorDash has set up a call center that is available for 24/7 support at 855.646.4683. In the meantime, here are some things you can do if you think you may have been affected by the DoorDash data breach.

Change Your Passwords Now

Anytime there is a data breach and you think you might have been affected, the Identity Theft Resource Center urges people to change their passwords immediately. Despite the fact that DoorDash says it will be reaching out to everyone affected, however, it is still a good idea to update your password and make sure it is a strong, unique password.

Track Your Steps

According to Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report last year there were 1,244 data breaches reported. What that is less than 2017, the number of exposed sensitive information significantly increased.

In the event you are a victim of a data breach and have a incurred financial costs or expended time and other resources, the ITRC encourages people to be prepared so you can prove your case in the future. You can do that by downloading our ID Theft Help App, which has a case log manager tool to help track any actions you take in response to a breach.

Consider A Credit Freeze

If you were a DoorDash driver before April 5, 2018, you could have had your driver’s license stolen, as well as potentially the names and contact information. Delivery drivers might want to consider putting a credit freeze on their reports to prevent a criminal from opening an unauthorized account in their name.

It is important to note that a credit freeze will stop someone from taking out a credit card or loan in your name, but it does not prevent identity theft not related to opening up a credit account.

Watch for Suspicious Activity

Be sure to track all your accounts daily for suspicious activity whether you were impacted by the DoorDash data breach or not. This also includes being very careful if you get any emails or phone calls from DoorDash. It is common for scams to happen following a data breach. If you see any suspicious activity do not respond and report it.

For more information on the data breach, you can go to Breach Clarity to see what information was exposed and see the risk score of the DoorDash data breach. You can also call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530 for assistance or LiveChat online.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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