Many online services advertised as “free” are gathering huge amounts of users’ data, which can be shared with advertisers and other third parties. By simply using an app, you could be sharing permissions with two or three additional sources without realizing it. If a source that stores your data is breached, you’re at risk of identity theft.

It's sad but true: an identity thief may need just a few key pieces of stolen data (think birth dates, Social Security numbers, and log-in credentials) to unlock a victim’s financial accounts, credit profiles, or even medical benefits. 

Many, many companies and organizations store personal information, and data breaches happen frequently. As a result, it’s easier than ever for fraudsters to gather people's sensitive details. 

Your data is a valuable asset, like your house or car — so it’s no surprise if bad actors and advertisers alike want to use your information for their profit. But you deserve to shop, work, and browse online without constantly worrying about your digital footprint. 

That’s where we come in. Read on to learn why an identity protection service like ours has become essential — and how our tools can help you live your digital life with confidence.

How do identity thieves get personal data?

You may be wondering how something as sensitive as personal data could fall into the wrong hands. 

There are still old school ways of obtaining this type of information, such as going through the trash to look for paper bank statements. But as more of the world moves online, thieves are increasingly logging on in order to steal people’s personal details. 

That’s bad news, because there’s a lot of personal information on the internet. Many online services advertised as “free” (such as apps, social media sites, and email providers) are gathering huge amounts of users’ data, which can be shared with third parties, such as payment processors or advertisers. By simply using an app, you could be sharing permissions with two or three additional sources without realizing it. 

This is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to control what happens with your information, and why you may be surprised when your personal details wind up exposed in a data breach. 

How data sharing and digital surveillance chip away at your privacy

Many people don’t realize the level of detail they’re sharing on the internet. It’s probably no surprise that Facebook knows your birthday and the names of your closest friends, while Google might know your favorite websites and the route you drive to work. But did you know that right this minute, your phone could be transmitting data — like your location, payment information, and browsing history — to several sources, including third parties, without your knowledge?

Some sources suggest that digital surveillance goes even deeper. For example, your TV may be emitting inaudible tones to secretly communicate with your cell phone, while grocery stores and billboards contain devices that track your movements to help marketers deliver highly targeted ads.

It’s worth noting that hyper-targeted ads themselves can pose privacy concerns because advertisements can be very intimate in nature. Picture a co-worker glancing at your screen right as a website serves you an ad relating to a pregnancy or a political belief you’d rather not share. 

All of this can add up to a huge invasion of our collective privacy. What’s worse, the companies collecting all of this personal data aren’t always good at storing and protecting it, leaving consumers more vulnerable to identity theft. 

Billions of personal records are stolen by hackers or accidentally exposed each year, and many of them wind up for sale on the dark web. Each time your information is involved in a breach — like, say, the 2019 Capital One breach that affected over 100 million people, or the 2017 Equifax data breach that impacted 147 million Americans — it becomes easier for someone to steal your identity. 

What are the consequences of identity theft?

If one or more of the apps, sites, and advertisers that gather your data are hacked, and a fraudster is able to cobble enough of those details together to convincingly pose as you, you’re at risk of identity theft. So it’s fair to wonder: what’s the fallout for this type of fraud? 

Without an identity protection service looking out for your details on the dark web, it can take months or even years to notice that your identity has been stolen. And by that point, it may have been used to fuel multiple types of fraud. Synthetic identity theft can be particularly hard to pinpoint and untangle. With any type of identity fraud, though, you may spend many months and many thousands of dollars working towards recovery. 

Even after that, the effects of a bad case of identity theft can linger. Your credit score could plummet, making it difficult to secure a mortgage or buy a car. Even your very health could be at risk: a thief using your information to fraudulently obtain health care could alter your medical records, potentially leading to issues in your own treatment down the line.

All this may sound intense, but don’t panic: if you’re one of our members, you’ll never have to face identity theft alone. 

How we can help

We want our members to keep loving the internet, so we offer features that can help them better manage their digital lives:

  • Visualize your data trail to understand your risk: The Allstate Digital Footprint℠  offers a simple way for you to see if you’ve already been involved in a data breach and stay alert to new accounts and breaches. 

  • Set customizable alerts: We monitor your credit, social media, and financial accounts for potential fraud, so you can act quickly to minimize damage. 

  • Sign up for dark web monitoring: Add additional key details, such as account numbers and IP addresses, to our dark web monitoring tool. Bots and human operatives regularly scan dark web forums, so we can let you know right away if we find your information where it doesn’t belong. 

  • Let us handle fraud remediation: If you do experience identity theft, our best-in-class customer service team is available around the clock to fully restore your identity. 

  • Protect the whole family: Add coverage for additional family members, ranging from infants to elderly parents. 

  • Rest easy with reimbursement coverage: Our generous identity theft reimbursement policies cover many of the out-of-pocket costs associated with identity restoration. 

The internet is here to stay — and thank goodness. It’s incredibly convenient to tap, swipe, and click through errands that once took much longer in the physical world. Plus, our devices help us stay connected with loved ones near and far. That’s why a quality identity protection service is so essential.