How to find out if your
identity has been hacked

By Jim Murphy

If you have a Target, Home Depot or LinkedIn account, chances are good that your identity has been stolen.

These are just a few of the major companies reporting thefts of customer information in recent years. And these data breaches affected 40 million, 56 million and 167 million accounts respectively. That’s a lot of identity theft.

So your credit card info or passwords may well have been sold on what is called “the dark web” – a highly encrypted and secret part of the World Wide Web often used for illegal activity.

How do you find out if your information has been hacked? The Wall Street Journal recommends that you check out this website: Have I Been Pwned?

Pwned, pronounced poned, is internet slang for owned, as in dominated or humiliated. It means you’ve been soundly defeated.

This very helpful web site, set up Troy Hunt, a Microsoft Regional Director and web security expert, is easy and free to use.

You simply enter your email address or user name and the site tells you if your identity has been hacked. It can also notify you later if your account is compromised.

When I first went to this site, I learned that my info on one account had been stolen in 2012.

Fortunately, I had changed my password in the meantime – when a former work colleague told me she was getting emails I had never sent.

What to do:

Step one: see if you have been hacked. If you have, step 2 is to change your password on the site or sites in question. And if you have used the same password for many sites (a real no-no) now is the time to change all of them.

And, as the Wall Street Journal writer Nathan Oliverez-Giles emphasizes, you should make your email and banking passwords different.

By the way, Have I Been Pwned? does not ask you for a password. The site does not want it. Avoid any site like this that does.

The Wall Street Journal writer also suggests you turn on two-step verification wherever you can as extra security.

How this works: after you provide a password to enter a site, a special code is sent to your phone. Before you can access the account, you must enter that number. So if a thief obtains your password, the hacker cannot access your account without the special code. It’s an extra safety measure.

Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Dropbox, and many other companies now use two-step authentication. Ask about it. The Wall Street Journal link below lists some key companies that use two-step notification.



Protect yourself
during the holidays

While shopping this holiday season, remember to take some commonsense measures to stay safe.

  • Discourage pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Keep your keys in your hand when approaching your vehicle.
  • Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • Be sure you don’t leave packages visible in your car. Lock them in the trunk or take them directly home.
  • When shopping at busy times like this – and if you are careful about what you are spending – consider using your credit card for purchases. Why? With credit cards, says AARP, you are liable for only up to $50 of fraudulent use. If your debit card is lost or stolen, your loss could be much larger.






Did you know that the clock faces on Philly’s City Hall are 3 feet larger in diameter than those of Big Ben, the famous clock in London’s Palace of Westminster?

It’s true. But City Hall’s clocks look smaller, because they’re 362 feet above ground. Big Ben’s are just 180 feet high.


flickr photo by patrickkuhl shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license 

Jim Murphy is a direct marketing copywriter who has run his own consulting business since 2004. For nine years, he wrote and edited “Choices,” an award-winning credit union magazine with a circulation of 80,000. He also is a certified member of the Association of Philadelphia Tour Guides.


Any comments made are Jim’s opinion, and not necessarily those of the Old Pine Community Center.





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