Experts say that there were a record number of data security breaches in 2007, and the problem is only expected to get worse in the coming year. It's estimated that between 79 million and 162 million consumer records were compromised during 2007. Professional hackers and teenagers with too much time on their hands have easily stayed ahead of the game... cracking security measures faster than they can be created and implemented by security experts.

This means consumers are more at-risk than ever of having their personal data stolen. You can be as careful as you want with your Social Security number and your credit card numbers, but lax security at a business can still compromise you. Imagine if a hacker broke into your file at your credit card company. He has immediate access to all sorts of private data, including your mother's maiden name, your credit card number, your pin number, and much more.

Security experts say part of the problem is that companies are being too reactive in their security measures. Instead of staying a few steps ahead of the criminals who are trying to break into computer systems, companies are busy putting out fires and reacting to security problems.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
You can't do much about the data security at companies. But if you hear about a company with poor security or a data compromise, you should think twice about doing business with them. And keep close tabs on your credit card statements and credit history. Any unauthorized changes or charges should be disputed immediately. Diligence regarding your credit records will be one of the best ways to protect yourself in the coming year.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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