The Difference Between a Data Breach and Identity Theft

For those who are unfamiliar with the industry, it’s easy to get confused in light of all the recent headlines regarding Equifax’s monster data breach that exposed the personal information of 143 million U.S. consumers, as well as others happening on a nearly daily basis.

A data breach is not the same thing as identity theft, but they are closely connected. (The bottom line is if your information was stolen in a data breach, your odds of becoming an identity theft victim increase to one in three.)

But let’s get back to the topic at hand — the difference between a data breach and identity theft.

Data Breach: A data breach is any incident where sensitive, confidential data is viewed, stolen or used in any unauthorized way without the knowledge or authorization of the system’s owner. A data breach happens when cyber criminals hack into either a company you’ve entrusted with your personal information, like Anthem or Target or one of the thousands of others, or a company you haven’t trusted with your information but who has it anyway, as is the case for Equifax and its GIANT breach affecting 143 million consumers. Thieves use the information gleaned in data breaches to steal identities.

Identity Theft: Identity theft is when a criminal uses information about you without your permission, usually for financial gain. Once a thief has your private information, your name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, etc. — essentially everything that was just leaked in the Equifax breach — they can go and open new accounts in your name. Or they might file a tax return in your name and steal your refund. Or they could seek out medical services in your name. Or they could give your information to law enforcement  The list goes on and on.  

These widespread data breaches basically give criminals the info that makes it “easy for the thief to get in there like a tornado, and you’re left doing the cleanup,” said Eva Velasquez, CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center in this recent Bloomberg story by Drew Armstrong about his 3-year nightmare dealing with the fallout from having his identity stolen. In the story, Armstrong talks about how time-intensive and hard it is to clean up the mess, something Velasquez concurs with:

“You have to get the language right, you have to be sure you’re talking to the right department of the right agency in the right organization,” Velasquez said. “You have to get the right forms. At least a couple of them, you’re going to have to repeat those steps, because somebody didn’t get the right note or it got lost.”

In short, cleaning up the mess left behind after your identity is stolen is incredibly time-consuming and confusing. The average identity theft victim spends 200+ hours trying to repair the damage.

If you’re a LibertyID member and your identity is stolen, you’ll have someone to call who will do the work for you. Our certified restoration specialists could save you hundreds of hours of work by placing fraud alerts, making all the necessary phone calls, filing the disputes and contacting government agencies, creditors, insurance companies and more. Those covered by LibertyID spend as little as 1.5 hours with a certified restoration specialist to achieve complete recovery.

Assume Your Private Information is No Longer Private

In light of the Equifax breach and just how widespread it is, many experts are saying it’s probably best to just assume your Social Security number and the rest of your private information is in the hands of identity thieves. Even the Federal Trade Commission concurs in its post about the breach.

If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax.”

Perhaps you’ve been doing everything in your power to keep your identity safe — using secure passwords, shredding important documents, etc. etc. etc. — and then … boom. You’re Equifaxed, or you learn you’ve been a victim of another breach and suddenly you have a one-in-three chance of having your identity stolen. That’s why it’s essential to become a LibertyID member. We’re the AAA of identity theft protection, offering the most effective identity restoration service. Sign up for an annual individual, couple or family subscription and rest easy knowing that if your identity is stolen, we will fix it.

Now is the time to get covered by LibertyID.


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