Home > 2013 > Identity Theft

Caught in a Data Breach? Don’t Ignore It

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 0 Comments

I was recently among a group of professionals discussing the latest information to surface about the Adobe Systems data breach. The company announced in early October that hackers had accessed 2.9 million customer accounts, compromising user names, passwords and encrypted credit and debit card numbers.

The number of accounts compromised has been revised to 38 million (though news reports have said the number is more like 150 million), which was part of the conversation, but that wasn’t the part that caught my attention. The discussion surrounding the most popular Adobe passwords was only mildly surprising. (123456? Really? Sigh.) What really surprised me was the reaction of some of these professionals, who use Adobe products every day. It went something like this:

“Yeah, I got that letter about identity theft protection, but I’m not going to jump through all those hoops,” people said. “If my credit card information gets stolen, I’ll just get a new one.”

It’s more complicated than that.

What a Breach Means

While users whose information was compromised may not experience any issues, they should still be on alert. Attackers can use the information they steal to break into other accounts you have, as people often use the same user names and passwords for multiple accounts. Cybercriminals can use various pieces of information to learn more about victims, making them potential identity theft and fraud victims.

Adam Levin, Credit.com’s chairman and co-founder, says that with so much sensitive personal data being stolen by hackers or leaked in data breaches, becoming a victim of identity theft is inevitable, and undoing the damage isn’t always so easy.

“The process of figuring out the damage, clearing your name and restoring your credit is often a full time job,” he said. “And there’s no guarantee that when you believe your work is done, the problem doesn’t resurface a year or two down the road because your information was sold and resold multiple times on the black market.”

As far as the reports that up to 152 million accounts were stolen:

“This number does not accurately reflect the number of impacted Adobe ID accounts,” said Wiebke Lips, senior communications manager for Adobe. She explained in an email, “The database taken by the attackers came from a backup system that had many out-of-date records and was designated to be decommissioned.”

Lips said less than 38 million active accounts were compromised, and Adobe is still investigating the number of inactive, invalid and test accounts involved.

The company reset the passwords of active customers, then had those customers reset the temporary passwords. Those customers also received a letter offering a free one-year identity theft protection membership.

What Consumers Should Do

While enrolling in identity theft protection is an option in this case, and it could be helpful, the risk of identity theft doesn’t go away a year after a breach — your information is out there and can be accessed by future fraudsters. That underlines the importance of changing passwords after such an incident and closely reviewing bank accounts. Even if the information on Adobe is out of date, it could be relevant to other accounts associated with your email address or user name.

Even if you aren’t worried about a data breach, you should routinely check your credit reports for mistakes, credit scores for sudden drops and bank accounts for unauthorized transactions. Credit.com offers a free tool, the Credit Report Card, for consumers to keep monthly tabs on credit profiles.

While large, the breach hasn’t seemed to cause consumers issues beyond the inconvenience of changing passwords. The largest breach on record happened in 2009 when 130 million credit card numbers were stolen from Heartland Payment Systems.

“We currently have no indication that there has been unauthorized activity on any Adobe ID account involved in the incident,” Lips said.

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team