The list of companies that have exposed customers' personal data to hackers is getting dizzying: Equifax. Target. Facebook. Even travel website Orbitz just announced that hackers may have stolen nearly 900,000 payment cards from its servers. Data breaches are piling up fast, and the burden still lies almost entirely on the consumer to deal with the fallout.
If you're not already mad about identity theft, get ready for a slap to the face. There's a reason these hacks are cropping up more and more, and it's all down to simple economics. Your personal information is only profitable in bulk.
The content marketing agency Fractl tracked the price of stolen login credentials on the dark web over a few days in February. MarketWatch reports that your data may go for as little as $1 (Gmail), $5.20 (Facebook), or $7 (Uber). Different logins can be used for different scams, depending on whether the hackers would rather order alcohol and expensive takeout (Grubhub and Seamless), compromise voter rolls (yikes!), or divert an Airbnb host's earnings to their own accounts.
Even if your data is cheap, that doesn't mean it's okay to let it slide. The more hackers know about your profile, personal, financial, or otherwise, the more they know about how to exploit you and your resources. Check out the website Have I Been Pwned? to see if your email addresses appear in a database of hacks and data breaches. Change all your passwords regularly, and invest in a password manager if you can. Switch to two-factor identification on sites you use for shopping (there's usually a FAQ to tell you how), and sign up for fraud alerts with your bank. It's a pain and more than a little overwhelming, but the fallout from identity theft can be far, far worse.