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Protect Your Family From Identity Theft: Some Solutions For Family Employers

Yahoo agreed to pay $50 million to 200 million Yahoo users in the United States and Israel following a series of data breaches.

The data breaches, which occurred in 2013, were not exposed until Verizon purchased Yahoo in 2016. In 2014, two Russian intelligence officers conspired to steal 500 million Yahoo users' data in order to target U.S. organizations and individuals, including the federal government.

The $50 million payment is part of an agreement to settle a lawsuit that resulted from the data breaches, which may have affected as many as three billion email accounts worldwide. As part of the settlement, Yahoo would also pay $35 million in attorney fees, provide two years of credit monitoring to affected individuals, and provide a compensation package to small businesses and individuals that suffered losses from the breaches.

Verizon and Altaba, which now own Yahoo, will each pay half of the settlement. Clyde Hughes "Yahoo agrees to pay $50M for breach that hit billions of accounts" (Oct. 24, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Although the headlines, like the one above, focus on large organizations that host data for the general public, that does not mean family employers are without risk from criminals who want to steal confidential information, like financial information.

An issue for smaller employers is not knowing if your financial information is compromised.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, clues that your identity has been stolen include: unauthorized charges appearing on your accounts; being denied a line of credit for a poor credit rating, despite a history of good credit; failing to receive credit card or bank statements in the mail as expected; being contacted by creditors about money owed for items that you did not purchase; and failing to receive a new or renewed credit card in the mail. Additional signs of identity theft include a health plan rejecting a claim because you have reached your spending limit or the IRS notifying you that more than one tax return was filed in your name.

Make sure your accounting staff is training to spot any of these indicators. If any of these red flags occur, or if you are notified that your data was stolen in a breach, make sure you notify one of the three major credit reporting agencies—Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion—to place a fraud alert on your accounts. Or, better yet, place a credit freeze with all three, which offers more protection and is now a cost-free option.

In addition to protecting your financial information, family employers should also protect their computers from corruption. Here are some steps:

  • Equip all computers with the latest security software and keep your protection up-to-date. Turn on the full-disc encryption and routinely scan for viruses on all computers.
  • Install a firewall on any internet connection used by staff for work.
  • Protect mobile devices with passwords and encryption, and require staff to report any lost or stolen devices immediately. Tell staff never to leave devices unattended in public.
  • Backup data regularly and store it in a safe place.
  • Encrypt your Wi-Fi network and require staff to only use a secure Wi-Fi network if working elsewhere.
  • Work with banks and other financial institutions to make sure your accounts are equipped with the best anti-fraud tools available.
  • Only allow staff access to the data that they must have to carry out their jobs.
  • Require staff to use unique passwords for all accounts.
  • Do not share sensitive information on social media sites.
  • Prohibit staff from keeping data when they leave. Have staff return any work devices and revoke their access to your online accounts.
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