I've received letters notifying me of data breaches in the past. In the end, I've never signed up for the offered protection service, figuring if "they" can hack Target or ADP or the IRS, they can hack anybody, like... Equifax.
And now Equifax has been hacked.
My family's Social Security Numbers were stolen from a hospital database. I think that information, plus public information was used to gain further data from the IRS FAFSA tool. (we got a letter from the IRS). Ultimately, fraudsters used whatever data they had to file a tax return with the IRS and with the Cali FTB (we don't and never have lived in California). We got letters from both, and managed to stop the fraud before it really impacted us...other than having to file a paper tax form this past tax season.
Anyway... in a world where Equifax gets hacked: the only solution is:
- Don't use credit. At all. Any credit puts your information at risk.
- give NO ONE your social security number. No one.
I don't bother with the crazy password schemes you talk about... I have a few different passwords I use, but most my investment accounts use the same username and password.
It's all about risk. Bruce Schneier says the same thing. The amount to spend on security should depend on what you're trying to protect. I don't care much if somebody gets into my google account, because I have a google account just because I have to. I barely use it at all. Similarly my yahoo account. My yahoo account uses my "insecure password", and my investment accounts use my "secure password". Credit Card info? Meh. Unless they get into the credit card company database, which undoubtedly has my Social Security Number, it's not that big of a deal. Yeah, they can make fraudulent charges, but there are legal protections, so in theory I can't be out any money.
So think this way: what's the risk, and what's the appropriate level of effort to take to mitigate that risk.