How thousands of dollars were stolen from me and why security is important.

Privacy and security are important. In 2015, my wife and I had thousands of dollars stolen by tax fraud. We weren’t the only ones. “As of December 31, 2015, the IRS reported that it identified 835,183 tax returns claiming approximately $4.3 billion in potentially fraudulent tax refunds.”[1] Hackers take private information (names, social security numbers, addresses, etc.) from previous attacks and file tax returns to be sent to them instead. “The 2017 Identity Fraud Study, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016.”[2]

Security: past and present

Until the last decade, most people have had the luxury of not needing to worry about cybersecurity. Hackers were an abstract idea or a concern for government entities. Today, however, you can’t find someone who hasn’t received an email from a “Nigerian Prince” who wants to give them a million dollars or a call from a company wanting to give them a “free” cruise.

Scammers, hackers, and bad-business advertisers will use your personal and contact information to exploit you if they can. There have been so many breaches that it’s likely everyone has had some of their information compromised. Yahoo recently announced that every account (over 3 billion) was exposed during their breach. Facebook, Twitter, Target, Uber, etc. have all had their own data breaches. This is only taking into account the breaches that are known about and released. Undoubtedly, hackers have accessed databases of other companies but not been caught.

Hacker automation and your protection

The bad guys continue to find ways to make it easier to exploit current financial and information systems. In fact, most attacks are automated these days. This is a good thing for informed citizens. Most of these attacks take advantage of the lowest hanging fruit, the people who haven’t taken proper security measures. Taking a few easy, small steps can greatly decrease the likelihood that you get hacked. My future posts will help you to be an informed citizen who has taken the simple and necessary steps needed to protect yourself and your information. If you’d like to get an email when I make a new post, sign up here!

I’ll leave you with this quote that always reminds me how important our right to privacy is: “Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden

** The IRS eventually ended up paying out our tax return to us as well. If you want to get an email when I put up a new post, click here!

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