Mount St. Joseph University

When identity theft hits home

Dateline: student newspaper

File Under: safety, technology

Imagine someone hacking into your personal finances, your retirement funds, social security information or e-mail. It could cause you to lose not only your money, but also your identity. Recent stories of huge data breaches and hacks bring identity theft to the public eye over and over again, but until it affects you personally, you likely don’t realize the extensive headaches it can cause.

Just ask Tim Lynch, history professor at the Mount, of the trauma such theft can cause, and why he and his wife are advocates for identity theft protection. On the first day of summer—the same day he broke his foot—Lynch received a letter in the mail from the IRS stating that he might be a victim of identity theft.

“My wife and I had to cancel our trip to California this summer, not only because of my foot, but also because we didn’t know what was going on with our personal account.” He said he had to contact three different credit-rating agencies to see who had his Social Security number, and to see if his wife was a victim, too.

Unfortunately, Lynch is still awaiting his refund that is under $300. However, Lynch states, “Whoever has my and my wife’s Social Security number could still be spending thousands on thousands of dollars.”

Joe O’ Neil, Client Service Representative at the Mount, says, “We all need to be optimistically cautious about who sends us e-mails. Be very cautious about e-mails, spam and viruses from those that are not valid.”

Furthermore, O’ Neil suggests to not use the same username and password for every networking site. Use a complex password, so it’s difficult for those to hack into your e-mail and get your personal information.

“Most people trying to hack into your account know you or have interacted with you in some way, while there are some people from other countries trying to hack into your distribution list and address books,” O’Neil said.

He also advises to change your password if you think you have fallen for any traps. A trap could be someone sending you an e-mail and asking you if you would like to stop viruses and spam by entering all your personal information. It can also be as easy as someone sending you an e-mail with misspelled words or a different logo for a company that you’re used to seeing.