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Color of Money: October is a spooky month for cybersecurity awareness

Michelle Singletary on

The irony is not lost on me -- nor should it be on you -- that National Cyber Security Awareness Month falls at the same time we celebrate Halloween.

When it comes to money, one of the scariest things happening right now is the insecurity of our financial information.

The fast food chain Sonic just became the latest company to reveal that hackers gained access to customers' data. This time it was debit and credit card information.

Meanwhile, Equifax has revealed that 145.5 million consumer accounts were compromised by a data breach. And Yahoo announced last week that every single account it had was compromised in a data breach that occurred in 2013.

The Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance launched the annual cyber security awareness campaign in 2004. And there's a lot of focus right now on what consumers can do to protect themselves. Here's one thing I've suggested: Create a "my Social Security" account. This is an important portal to your Social Security benefits.

"The most secure action a person can take is to create their own 'my Social Security' account," said Mark Hinkle, acting press officer for the Social Security Administration.

With the information stolen in so many of these breaches, identity thieves could beat you to the site and apply for retirement, disability or Medicare benefits in your name.

"I tried to set up a Social Security account but couldn't," one reader wrote following my recommendation. "Is this because I have placed a security freeze on my credit files?"

Ready for another scary story?

This person couldn't set up an account because Social Security uses information in your credit file to verify your identity. If the file is frozen because of a security freeze, the agency can't find what it needs to ask questions to confirm that you are who you say you are.

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