I could start off by saying that the information I’m about to share with you is important, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth. The truth is this is critical information. This could be life-altering stuff that you need to pay attention to. Massive data breaches at big companies have become so commonplace that consumers shrug them off. But high-tech criminals have ratcheted up the danger to a whole new level. The biggest and most recent example of a dangerous hacking incident involves the health insurance provider Anthem-although similar, less publicized invasions have occurred at other companies-and it makes the possible fallout from credit and password theft seem mild in comparison. The Anthem breach could lead to long-lasting, life-altering identity theft for many of their current and former customers (up to 80 million). That’s because the hackers who invaded Anthem’s computers stole data including names, employment and contact information, health insurance IDs, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers. And I am an Anthem customer. Holy cow! So why is this such a big deal? Social Security breaches allow the crooks to pose as you in myriad ways that could totally disrupt your life. Victims might spend years fending off bill collectors about purchases they never made, fighting to remove inaccurate information from their medical files, explaining to police that it was really someone else who was arrested and skipped bail, and praying that no one steals their tax refunds. That’s far worse than having your credit card information stolen-credit cards can be quickly canceled, passwords can be changed and any losses are usually covered by the issuer. THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT, CYBER THIEVES AND SECURITY BREACHES Data thieves sometimes wait years to use stolen data so keep checking your credit report. Simple, daily precautions can go a long way in protecting your identity. You’re smart enough to do an online search for yourself and implement what works for you. If you’re an Anthem victim like me, consider putting a security freeze on your credit files. This costs time and money but you’ll sleep better because a basic fraud alert may not cut it. Victims of large-scale breaches should hire a reputable credit protection service to monitor credit like: IdentityGuard, TrustedID, LifeLock Ultimate, PrivacyGuard, IDFreeze or LegalShield.