With graduation just around the corner and college plans already taking shape for a lot of students, this is the time of year when students put in a lot of work in finding sources of financial aid. However, scammers are working just as hard in order to take advantage of students who are trying to spend wisely for higher education with student loan scams. Here are just a few of the ways scammers can put a very expensive damper on your plans.

Scholarship “Finders”

For a hefty fee and access to all of your sensitive information, some notorious sites will claim to seek out scholarships that you are eligible for. The problem is that you still have to do the work of applying for them. So, all this company did was take your money, input your information into a large search database—one that the public can also access for themselves—and send you the results. They literally got paid to do what you could have done for free, only they were hoping you did not know that. This is a classic student loan scam.

“Guaranteed” Acceptance Aid

Any form of financial aid that tells you it is guaranteed is probably a scam. After all, there are a lot of factors at play when it comes to approving requests for financial aid. Your FAFSA form is your first step in filing for financial aid, so start there at FAFSA.gov.

High-Pressure Pitches

Yes, our country is stronger when its young people can access the kinds of educational and work opportunities they desire. However, any company that contacts you relentlessly—whether by email, phone, text or social media ad—has another interest in mind, and that is getting money from you. To avoid a student loan scam, stay away from any website, platform or company that goes with high-pressure, act-now sales pitches.

Loan Erasure Scams

While student loan debt can be a burden for a lot of people, scammers are making it a lot worse. By claiming to offer services that “erase” or forgive your student loans—which are nothing more than government programs that anyone can apply for on their own—scammers take your money in the form of application fees and steal your identifying information. Then they leave you with just as much debt as you had before.

When it comes to student loan scams, a good rule of thumb is to be very wary of anyone who wants your personally identifiable information or who insists on upfront fees. If you do a little bit of homework, you might discover that the company is charging you money for nothing in return. Stay safe this student loan scam season by not falling for the scammer’s tricks.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.


For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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With the REAL ID deadline approaching in October, it is time to determine if you should replace your current government- issued ID, as well as be aware of any scams that may pop around near the time of the change.

What is a REAL ID?

Fifteen years ago, Congress passed the REAL ID Act, which set a uniform standard for how individual states issue driver’s licenses and state IDs. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, each state determined the requirements on how to prove your identity and address when applying for identity documents. Once the ID was issued, it was automatically valid in all other states. Because the 9/11 hijackers used legal, state-issued IDs in their attacks, the federal government created guidelines to standardize the credentials required to travel by air or enter federal government buildings.

After numerous delays in the 15 years since the law was enacted, U.S. residents must now decide if they need a REAL ID or to keep their current state-government issues ID.

What To Consider

It’s important to consider your circumstances and if you truly need a REAL ID. If you are planning to travel domestically by commercial airline within the United States, you will need the enhanced ID. However, if you are NOT planning to travel within the U.S. by air or enter a federal government building, then your regular state identification card or Driver’s License is still valid. If your license is valid—whether it is a REAL ID or not—you will still be able to use it as a form of identification for activities like writing a check.

Important Steps

There are some important steps in order to obtain a REAL ID in your state, as well as specific documents you must have. Be sure to check with your state’s DMV or state police website in order to find out what you must bring with you. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), “At a minimum, you must provide documentation showing:  1) Full Legal Name; 2) Date of Birth; 3) Social Security Number; 4) Two Proofs of Address of Principal Residence; and 5) Lawful Status.”

For example, to apply for the REAL ID card in California, you need to present one identity document that includes your date of birth and true full name. That could include:

  • Valid, unexpired U.S. passport or passport card
  • Original or Certified copy of U.S birth certificate (issued by a city, county or state vital statistics office). “Abbreviated” or “Abstract” certificates are NOT accepted
  • U.S. Certificate of Birth Abroad or Consular Report of Birth Abroad of U.S. Citizen
  • Unexpired foreign passport with valid U.S. Visa and approved I-94 form
  • Certified copy of birth certificate from a U.S. Territory
  • Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of U.S. Citizenship
  • Valid, unexpired Permanent Resident Card
  • Valid, unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD) Card (I-766) or valid/expired EAD Card with Notice of Action (I-797 C)
  • Valid/expired Permanent Resident Card with Notice of Action (I-797 C) or Approval Notice (I-797)
  • Unexpired foreign passport stamped “Processed for I-551”
  • Documents reflecting TPS benefit eligibility

Potential Scams

With any change in government processes, scammers will try to take advantage. Be on your guard against fraud and hoaxes with the REAL ID deadline approaching.

For example, you cannot upgrade your license or ID over the phone, you will not be required to pay a fee or fine for not having a REAL ID and you will never be asked for the information on your license.

You will not receive a fine from the police for driving with a license that is not a REAL ID as long as it is valid. Also, you cannot be turned away at a polling place if you are a registered voter.

When in doubt, simply reach out to your local agency that issues REAL IDs for more information.

Data Storage & Protection

Once you are done with the process of applying for your REAL ID, don’t forget about data storage and protection. Important papers like your W-2 form, Social Security Administration card and other documents (even your devices) should never be unattended, even in a locked vehicle. Once you get home, it is also important to lock up your documents in a safe place to keep people—even people you thought you could trust—from accessing it. This could be a locked filing cabinet or firebox.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.


For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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When you are on the internet in this day in age, you always have to be cautious about whether games and deals are legitimate fun or a social media hoax. There is no shortage of ways to earn money, win prizes or benefit from free goods online. Contests, giveaways and company discounts are all over, and the chance to score some savings can be very enticing. Sometimes it takes nothing more than “liking and sharing” a page. Other times, it requires you to sign up with your identifying information. Unfortunately, scammers know that as well.

From social media hoaxes and fake contests to outright phishing attempts that steal your information, there is no end to the ways that criminals will try to take advantage of you. Adopting a suspicious air of caution is important whenever you sign up for something, enter a game or contest or any other type of activity that exposes your information.

For example, a new contest has made serious waves online, mostly for its originality but also for its red flags. A group known as MSCHF has had a lot of fun—and shared that fun with a vast community of online users—with innovative and inventive offerings. Their newest project, however—Password of the Day—is no exception.

The way it works is you sign up with your phone number to receive text messages from the company. Every day, users can request the “password of the day.” The reply will include the login credentials for some kind of online account. It might be an Amazon account equipped with Prime, a PayPal account with a $1,000 balance in it, a Disney+ account or any other kind of account. Not knowing is part of the game, after all. The trick is the first person to find the online account that those credentials go to gets to keep it.

Fun, right? Except for some media coverage of this “internet treasure hunt” that failed to point out where exactly these login credentials came from. That left people to speculate as to whether these credentials had been stolen or bought from the Dark Web. Is this the latest social media hoax?

Luckily, no. Upon further research about this game, showed that the creators had established all of the accounts themselves to give away. That might not have been clear at the onset to some users since the game was very mysterious. However, it is a legitimate game that does not steal from others.

It is hard to find fault with the people who were concerned about a social media hoax, though. After all, the internet is filled with too-good-to-be-true offers, fake coupons that require you to turn over your personal data and surveys that go on for page after page and result in a flood of spam emails. Furthermore, this game requires you to submit your cellphone number—in order to receive the text messages—and that can make people stop and think, too.

This should serve as a warning to all internet users to be careful of “crazy” deals and offers. More importantly, do your own homework before signing up for or rejecting a company. Simple Google searches can tell you a lot about whether or not it is a social media hoax. If you are still unsure, contact the company directly or err on the side of caution. In the meantime, enjoy the game when a company has proven itself to be trustworthy!

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.


For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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In 2019, romance scams led to losses of over $200 million. While these scams may seem easy to avoid, scammers go out of their way to take advantage of you.

All internet scams have the potential to be cruel. After all, they are designed to trick you into handing over your money, your identity or both. However, perhaps one of the most heart-wrenching forms of online scam is the romance scam. Not only does the victim lose their money—and even potentially end up in jail—but they lose what they believed was a real chance at finding lasting love.

Romance scams occur when someone poses as a possible love interest. They reach out to you on social media, on dating apps and websites, via text message or email or through any other means. The resulting conversation is fun and interesting, and the sheer amount of personal attention can lift anyone’s spirits. Before long, you find yourself looking forward to the numerous messages this person sends each day. It does not take long before the pre-packaged lines start to flow:

  • “I have never felt like this with anyone I have chatted with before.”
  • “I know we just started talking, but I think I’m falling in love with you.”
  • “I hope this is not too forward, but I could really see us spending the rest of our lives together.”

Of course, there is always a major obstacle from this new love interest that makes it hard to chat, speak on the phone or visit in person. Perhaps they work on an offshore oil rig, or they are a deep-sea fisherman out on the water for months at a time. Often, the scenario is that they are a U.S. soldier who has been deployed to Afghanistan. The job may change, but the excuse is the same.

Before too long, the ploy begins:

  • “I am stuck here on an oil rig and my mom—who adores you already and is excited about meeting you soon—needs medicine. The money is in my account, but the bank has frozen my account while I am away. If only there was someone who could send her money so she does not end up back in the hospital.”
  • “I am away on the boat and my son at university—I mean, our son—just had his laptop stolen. He is going to fail his classes and lose his scholarship.”

What’s worse, is the victim’s response to the ploy will determine the future of the relationship. Sending money right away will earn you more messages, more talk of marriage and a future. Showing even the slightest hesitation can result in being cut off for a while. Once you come to your senses and send the money, then the lovey-dovey talk starts back up.

You would think people would not be taken in so easily, but that is not true. In fact, despite the fact that romance scams have been around for years, 2019 romance scam statistics show Americans reported losses of over $201 million in 2019 to romance scams. Those romance scam statistics are just the reports that were actually made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and does not include the numbers of victims who are still embedded in these scams or were too upset and embarrassed to file a report.

Over the last two years, the money reported lost to romance scams was higher than any other reported scam according to the FTC. The FTC also says 2019 romance scams included more than 25,000 reports filed.

Avoiding a romance scam is much harder than it sounds, and recognizing that you have already been victimized is even harder than that. These scammers are good at what they do and they know exactly what to say to snare their victims. All you can do is adopt an air of caution about talking to people online, look for those red flags about long-distance relationships and far-flung jobs and remember that if anyone asks you for money for any reason, it is probably a scam.

If you believe you are a victim of identity theft, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll free at 888.400.5530 to speak with one of our advisors or live chat with an advisor on our website. They will help you create an action plan for your case while directing you on the next steps you need to take.


For on-the-go identity assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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It is the season of love and the season of romance scams, specifically a senior online dating scam.

Who Is It Targeting: Single seniors looking for relationships

What Is It: Variety of scams that target seniors based on romantic conversations

What Are They After: There are a variety of senior online dating scams out there right now, and they can do everything from stealing your money or identity to landing you in jail. Typically, romance scammers reach out via social media messaging sites, online dating sites and even platforms like Skype. However, the brief conversations with a stranger quickly turn romantic, and before too long, the victim is snared.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • Be very wary of connecting with people you do not know
  • Look for red flags, such as a job in a far-flung location or some excuse as to why they cannot connect or speak on the phone regularly
  • If you are asked for money for ANY reason, it is a scam; no one you just met online will need to ask you for money, no matter how many times you have chatted
  • Some of the romance scams can hook you into taking part in criminal activities like money laundering, so be careful of any “favors” you are asked to do
  • Video platforms like Skype have been used for sextortion, so be very careful about engaging in adult behaviors online with someone you don’t actually know

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or a senior online dating scam, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from WealthyRetirement.com.

Hackers are taking advantage of the outbreak with a new coronavirus email scam.

When anything newsworthy happens, you can guarantee that scammers will attempt to make a quick buck off of the public buzz. Sadly, the coronavirus is just the latest global event to be used as bait by these criminals.

While the number of cases continues to climb and the death toll rises, scammers are using fake emails that contain harmful links to snare their victims by playing off their concerns. These emails claim to have information on coronavirus updates, an interactive link where you can look up the numbers of cases near you and more. The links, however, redirect to web pages that steal your information instead of providing you with important updates.

Sadly, this coronavirus email scam is a classic tactic on the part of scammers. You could remove “coronavirus” and insert whatever the latest headline-grabbing issue is, and these messages would look very similar. In order to avoid the coronavirus email scam and the threat in general, you must develop good cybersecurity behaviors and habits.

  • Never click a link, open an attachment or download a file that you were not specifically expecting. Instead, contact the sender to verify its authenticity. If the sender is not someone you regularly interact with, ignore the email altogether. Even if it is someone known to you, still verify the link in case their email was hacked.
  • Do not share or forward emails or messages that claim to have the “latest” headline news. They are often alarmist to the point of being hoaxes or contain outdated details. In the case of the coronavirus email scam, they contain dangerous links.

It is important to stay up-to-date on major events. Coronavirus and the flu, for example, are two medical issues that are rampant and very problematic, even more so for certain demographics of people. In order to stay on top of the news, go directly to trusted sources—such as the CDC or World Health Organization—for updates and information.


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.

This news is currently evolving and we will update as announcements are made available.  

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By: Eva Velasquez, President & CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center

If you have a LinkedIn account, keep an eye on your email for a LinkedIn romance scam.  There are immediate red flags in this communication, and I’m a happily married woman, but I did find part of this invitation appealing: I saw the immediate opportunity to educate people regarding romance scams!  Here is  a recent email that came to my work inbox. It said:

How are you,

I read your profile on LinkedIn and you caught my eye, I am interested in communicating more and sharing more about me with you and hope to learn more about you too that is if you are single and interested in communicating further. This is all new for me, it is the first time I would ever go against protocol of doing business only on the LinkedIn website. I do believe everything is possible if we put our mind and heart together just like I believe that good things can be found in the least places and when we least expect. I do not just give out my personal details like email or phone numbers to people on LinkedIn or off it, but I am willing to make a compromise to communicate with you so here am I emailing you off the site because I really wanted to touch base with you.

I am interested in communicating more this is me being honest. I hope no offense is taken, I understand the medium is a business networking medium and not a dating or social networking website and I don’t intend to use it for one. I will wait for your response soon hopefully, meanwhile, my profile on LinkedIn is on my name AUSTIN WAGNER. You should check me out and let me know what you think. I have no picture on my profile so I am sending you a couple of recent pictures too just so you know what I look like.

Warm Regards,
Austin Wagner

“Austin Wagner” went on to send me these pictures:

I first thought, wow this is one heck of scam but they definitely tried to phish the wrong gal. Oddly enough, I thought I  recognized the man in these images. Most times, scammers will steal pictures from public social media account to use for their own gain including dating apps, social media, etc. Sometimes these pictures will even be of a military member in uniform. I mean, who wouldn’t trust the red, white and blue?

Being the CEO of a non-profit that specializes in identity theft remediation, I put on my investigative hat and got to work. After a reverse image Google search, it turns out the pictures are of Joe Cross, the health advocate from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I knew I recognized him! I had seen the film and even adventured on my own green juice journey (amazing benefits but that’s besides the point). Moreover, the pictures were from his Facebook and Twitter in 2016. This scammer chose the wrong person to come after!

I did not have a new love interest, and that is okay because, once again, I am a happily married woman! This LinkedIn romance scam is a reminder of how careful we all have to be of romance scams.

They can do more damage than nearly any other scam. Not only can they take your money, but they can meddle with your emotions as well.

To avoid falling victim to a LinkedIn romance scam, keep these things in mind:

Make Sure You Know the Person

If you receive a message like the one I received, it is fake. These scammers browse sites like LinkedIn looking for victims to take advantage of. As nice as it is to receive a compliment on your looks, don’t fall for ones like these and make sure you have alternate means of contacting the person outside of LinkedIn. I have received several instant messages from connections whose accounts were hacked. In fact, I received one from the CEO of Seamgen with whom I have a working relationship with. However, the ask looked odd, and requested that I click on a link to fill out a form. I emailed my contact and they confirmed that their account had been hacked and were in the process of restoring it.

Money? You Want My Money?

Everyone needs a little financial help, right? The first request for money will come along and it will seem like a legitimate request. Next thing you know, you have bought your “significant other” a plane ticket or medication for one of their sick relatives. If you get requests like this, it is a scam like the LinkedIn romance scam and the criminal is just looking to steal your money.

Mentioning money, some romance scams can force the victim into money laundering, which happens when your “significant other” wires your money with instructions to send it to someone else.

Others Types of Romance Scams

Not all romance scams are like the LinkedIn romance scam. Some can happen at your door, an online romance scam that crosses over into real life, as well as on dating apps.

The best way to protect yourself from scammers like these is to be smart and cautious, even more so than you would in a face-to-face relationship. Also, if you are EVER asked to send money, don’t do it. It is important to protect yourself from manipulative tactics. Protect yourselves from the “Austin Wagner’s” of LinkedIn, no matter how flattering they are.

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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Identity Theft Resource Center®’s Annual End-of-Year Data Breach Report Reveals 17 Percent Increase in Breaches over 2018

Scam Alert: FedEx Delivery Text Scam

Scam Alert: Australian Fire Fundraising Scam

There is a new U.S. government consumer agency that will pay for data breaches? If that is what you have been told, it is not true. It would be like the fox guarding the henhouse, but actually paying that fox money to eat your chickens instead. A new phishing scam that masquerades as a U.S. government consumer agency is supposedly paying data breach victims for the loss of their personally identifiable information. Instead, once consumers enter their name, birthdate, credit card number and Social Security number, you can probably guess what happens next.

Yes, even more identity theft.

According to security company Kaspersky whose researchers discovered the scam, a website claiming to be the U.S. Trading Commission maintains a victims’ fund to help consumers who have been impacted by data breaches. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the U.S. Trading Commission, even though their website looks surprisingly similar to that of the Federal Trade Commission.

There are a number of red flags about the site that by now should be obvious to a lot of users. First, similar to the legitimate sites that let you check to see if your information has been compromised, this one offers you the chance to compare your information after you hand over some details. The boxes where you enter the information are not all spelled correctly. Also, Kaspersky’s researchers typed in a jumbled array of letters instead of the information, then received an “official” response from a member of Congress whose image and signature had been stolen for this fake.

In order to file a claim on the bogus information that the website shows you so they can pay for data breaches, you must enter your SSN and payment card. Those should always be major red flags to anyone who uses the internet. There is no reason to submit your SSN to anyone without verifying the company, their web security and why they need it.

The spoofing alone, using a similar-sounding name, should have given users pause. There is no government agency with that name, and a quick Google search can show you that. Never interact with a website that claims or appears to be official if you cannot identify the agency. Also, any government agency should have a .gov ending on its website and email domain names. Any website that gathers sensitive information like a payment card number or SSN should also have an HTTPS designation at the beginning of the web address.

Unfortunately, creating a fake website as part of a new phishing scam is a shockingly easy thing to do. That is why it is important that consumers know these red flags and look for them before interacting with any company or organization. Protect yourself by developing cautious good habits about where you submit your personal data.

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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Identity Theft Resource Center®’s Annual End-of-Year Data Breach Report Reveals 17 Percent Increase in Breaches over 2018

Scam Alert: FedEx Delivery Text Scam

Scam Alert: Australian Fire Fundraising Scam

Hackers have infected legitimate fundraising websites with a malicious card-stealing code, creating a dangerous Australian fire fundraising scam.

Who Is It Targeting: Donors to Australia fires fundraising efforts

What Is It: A malicious code that steals information from genuine websites

What They Are After: When any event garners worldwide attention, there are going to be scammers looking to make a quick buck. Whether it is fake websites that solicit donations, bogus phone calls asking for money or any other ploy, donors must be careful about where they give their money. Unfortunately, hackers have infected at least one authentic fundraising site with a piece of malware known as Magecart as part of the Australian fire fundraising scam. When donors give money to help with the Australia fires, the hackers can steal their payment information.

How Can You Avoid It:

  • There is no way to know if the website you are using has been infected
  • Instead, activate any security alerts from your financial institution
  • Monitor your accounts closely for signs of suspicious activity

If you think you may be a victim of identity theft, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. Find more information about current scams and alerts here. For full details of this scam check out this article from PureVPN.com

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With the Super Bowl quickly approaching, it is time to start looking out for people trying to trick you with a Super Bowl scam. Fans are eagerly awaiting the results of the playoffs to see who will go head-to-head next month. Whether your team makes the final game or not, it is an exciting time for football fans. Unfortunately, it is also an exciting time for scammers.

From bogus tickets and fake travel deals to illegal online gambling, there is no limit to the different ways that criminals can attempt to pick your virtual pockets with a Super Bowl scam. One nearly unbelievable Super Bowl scam involved a beloved community member and well-known businessman who stole more than $750,000 from his own friends and associates. That included $36,000 from his own mother.

It is important to learn how to protect yourself from a Super Bowl scam now so that all you have to worry about come game day is having enough snacks on hand to celebrate.

Tickets

Part of the trouble with spotting fake tickets from real ones is the fact that real ticket resale websites actually do exist. As long as the terms and conditions are met, buying someone’s unwanted tickets is legal. Sadly, it is rather easy to create a fake website that offers bogus tickets. Make sure you are only using verified ticket sources.

Hotel and Travel Packages

Just because you saw photos of a great suite close to the stadium or clicked on an ad for a $99 roundtrip flight, that does not mean your reservation is real. It is probably a Super Bowl scam. Only use legitimate travel sites to book your accommodations, and if possible, use a payment method that offers some kind of buyer protection. Avoid the urge to click on flashy last-minute deals, too.

Phishing Attempts

The easiest way to steal identifying information and funds is to never bother making fake tickets or fake travel packages. Instead, scammers send out a mass email or text message offers, or create viral social media posts. Unsuspecting fans click on the links in the message, hoping to get a great deal. Instead, either malware is installed on their device or the users submit their information and payment method to be stolen. The reality of scams and hoaxes is that these tactics are not limited to just Super Bowl scams. Criminals recycle their tools, mostly because they work, at any time of the year and whenever a major event is taking place. Be on the lookout for too good to be true opportunities and remember to safeguard your information at all times.


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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Ring Doorbell Data Leak Exposes Over 3,000 Accounts 

Data Privacy Day 2020 – The Year of Privacy