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When Sensitive Information is Leaked: Understanding the Law

At a time when cell phones are everywhere and social media brings us the details of strangers’ lives in real time, we’re more concerned about privacy than ever before. And for good reason: in the wrong hands, sensitive information can be used for fraud, identity theft, and blackmail.

Florida residents may need to be especially concerned. Florida, especially South Florida, was top in the nation for the number of identity theft and fraud-related complaints in 2014. That year, there were 1,007 complaints of fraud per 100,000 Floridians. About 37,000 Florida residents reported being victims of identity theft that year. In fact, identity theft is such a problem in Florida that the Hollywood police department has launched an economic crimes unit to deal with identity theft and other related crimes.

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How does sensitive information get leaked?

One reason why sensitive information leaks are so rampant is because information today is gathered everywhere. When you make a purchase at a small online retailer, the business may keep your contact information and credit card or payment information on file. If the company doesn’t have excellent security measures, your information may be compromised.

Your information is also at risk because not all employees and federal workers are properly trained or duly careful when handling personal information. There have been cases of individuals handing out personal information to strangers posing as someone else and instances of people storing sensitive data on unsecured thumb drives or on computers used for  private browsing. Sometimes, printed files have been left unsecured, leading to leaks.

Thieves have also become more savvy, using sophisticated programs and hacking methods to gain access to servers and computer files online. Some exploit little-known flaws in computer systems or software. Others use low-tech methods. For instance, they impersonate authorities and call individuals on the phone, demanding PINs or other sensitive information they can exploit. Some even go through trash bins, seeking out private information they can use.

What are your rights?

If you have had personal information leaked or have had your identity stolen, you do have rights. In this situation, you will want to:

1) Contact police.

Theft, fraud, and identity theft are all crimes. You can work with police as part of their investigation. You can also visit the Florida Attorney General’s website for more information about identity theft.

2) Gather information.

Keep any evidence of identity theft or sensitive information leaks. For example, if someone has information about you posted online, take screenshots so you can prove they have misused the information.

3) Protect your credit rating.

Contact the three credit bureaus and your banks and inform them of the information leak. Ask the credit bureaus to place a “fraud alert” on your file and follow up regularly to check for suspicious activity. Work with the credit bureau to remove marks note related to your activity. Contact any creditors you have to place a “fraud alert” on your file. Keep a close eye on all your accounts for any suspicious activity.

4) File civil charges.

Fraud and information leaks can cause significant problems. You may lose money and significant time trying to fix the issues. You may struggle if your credit rating has been affected and you may face significant stress, depending on the information leaked. You may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit in Hollywood or your community against the perpetrator. If a company or government agency was negligent in storing or using your personal information, you may also have a claim against them.

To find out more, contact Flaxman Law Group for a free consultation. We always stand by those who have been injured through no fault of their own.