Another year, another record-setting report… The Identity Theft Resource Center® (ITRC) with sponsor CyberScout released the 2017 Annual Data Breach Year-End Review stating 2017 hit a new all-time high of 1,579, up 44.7 percent over last year’s record total of 1,091 breaches.

Each year for the past twelve years, the Identity Theft Resource Center has cataloged the number of data breaches, which include hacking attempts and various specific types of breaches, as well as the reported number of compromised consumer records.

  • So far this year, roughly 157, 953, 329 Social Security numbers have been compromised which is more than eight times 2016 figures; many of those can be traced to a single event, the Equifax data breach that was discovered over the summer, but the remaining data breaches all contributed to the problem. In addition to this piece of personal identifiable information, more than 14 million credit and debit cards were exposed.

For many years, that payment card information was sought after by identity thieves and hackers. They would use stolen credentials to rack up high-dollar charges, then profit off the items that they illegally bought. The problem for the criminals, though, is that better alert systems from financial institutions has resulted in a very narrow window of opportunity to use the stolen card information.

Not too long ago, hackers began accessing stolen consumer information in order to open new lines of credit, basically giving them fresh accounts anytime they wanted. This shift has meant that Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other key identifiers are now the goal. There’s even a dark web marketplace for selling stolen consumer records in order to profit from their potential.

So what does this current state of data breaches mean for the coming year? With the higher than ever numbers of Social Security numbers that are available for identity thieves, we may see a noticeable uptick in reports of identity theft. Financial institutions and retailers will shoulder a heavy burden in absorbing the costs associated with fraudulently opened lines of credit. The credit reporting agencies will ideally put new safeguards in place that make it harder for a new lines of credit to be opened, and easier for consumers to exact better control over their records. Most of all, better awareness of the crime and of ways to safeguard your information—like two-factor authentication, signing up for alerts, and routine monitoring of your reports—can help make a serious dent in the damage we can expect in the year ahead.

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.