Earlier this summer, Discover rolled out a free service to help protect its cardholders from identity theft. This service alerts cardholders when their Social Security numbers have been compromised and left vulnerable to criminals.
This feature is a natural fit for a credit card industry that increasingly prioritizes security. But if you're a Discover customer (or you're interested in becoming one), you may be curious why that security is so important and what the new feature actually does.
The Dark Web Threat
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, over 15 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2016, with losses amounting to $16 billion. Consumers are particularly vulnerable to identity theft after a data breach leaves their personal information—like Social Security numbers and credit card information—exposed.
After a data breach, stolen information may be listed for sale on illegal websites on the dark web, an area of the internet that can't be indexed or located by search engines like Google. Some dark web marketplaces exist solely to traffic in illegal goods and information, including stolen consumer data. If personal information is compromised in a breach, a stolen Social Security number is up for grabs.
Thieves can then use acquired Social Security numbers and other private information to create accounts and take out loans, which can wreak havoc on a victim's credit.
Discover's Social Security Alerts
Discover Social Security alerts can help fight against identity theft by monitoring the dark web for your Social Security number.
"Once a cardmember signs up for our new free alerts, Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites that are known to illegally sell or trade information and will notify cardmembers if their Social Security number is found," says Laks Vasudevan, Discover's VP of global products and solutions. "In [addition], we'll monitor cardmembers' Experian credit reports and notify them if any new credit accounts—such as credit cards, mortgages, or car loans—are opened in their name."
If Discover finds a customer's information on one of these sites, the customer will be notified via email or text alert.
Beyond the Alert
Being aware of a security risk is an important first step in the battle against identity theft. But addressing identify theft will require further action.
If a cardmember receives a Social Security alert, Vasudevan said they should call Discover so agents can help them identify the right course of action. Agents may advise cardmembers to put a freeze on their credit report or put them in contact with an Experian fraud expert.
"Helping Discover cardmembers protect their personal information is one of our highest priorities," says Vasudevan. "We know that identity theft and fraud is a concern for people everywhere, including our cardmembers, which is why we expanded our monitoring features beyond our cardmembers' Discover accounts."
Whether you're a Discover cardholder or not, you should always take precautions to safeguard your personal information and fight identity theft. You can start by checking your credit report for free at Credit.com.
Note: It's important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly.