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Risk of Identity Theft Both Big and Small

Created: 02/06/2014 10:57 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- There's been growing security concerns following the massive Target breach and most recently the one at Olmsted County Medical Center.  The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 8 million Americans are victims of identity theft each year.

And while it may seem like every big corporation in the country is struggling to keep data secure, think again.

"These major ones, that's rare,” said Michael Walters, an attorney with Wintering Law Office in Rochester.

Walters has experience in cyber-crime and said that although major instances of data theft are uncommon, for employees who have to give their employers important personal data, there's really not a lot they can do to protect themselves.

"I think that ultimately it needs to come down to these institutions, companies both for profit and non-profit, taking good care of their data and having good policies for their employees,” Walters said.

Experts said the real threat for most people comes on a much smaller scale, including swindlers and those unlawfully accessing other people's computers.

"On a daily basis we're contacted by citizens who have had their data compromised,” said Capt. John Sherwin with the Rochester Police Department. “Whether it be credit card, tax information, social security numbers, business identification numbers, anything."

Authorities said that because most criminals are targeting personal data to try to make a quick buck, the best way to keep yourself safe is to check your accounts and stay vigilant.

"You need to keep an eye on your own credit score, on your own protected data,” Walters said. “Keep an eye on basically your own information so that you do spot a breach if it happens."

And experts said the sooner you notice a breach, the better chance you have of getting your money or information back.

"These are complex networks, they can operate both domestically and internationally,” Capt. Sherwin said. “[It’s] very difficult to track and to prosecute these types of cases."

If you're a victim of identity theft, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety says you should notify your bank and close any compromised accounts immediately. Also, report it to police and Federal Trade Commission, and place a fraud alert on your credit report to keep you notified of any suspicious activity.