Our government recently notified more than four million government workers that China had hacked the Office of Personnel Management and stolen personal data. Hackers have breached the Pentagon; Home Depot, Target, Google, Apple, Yahoo, AT&T, eBay, J.P. Morgan Chase… too many major corporations to keep count. And many others we don’t know about or who have not disclosed. In my view, cyber security is the new frontier for thieves and one of the greatest threats to our way of life.
The way we live our lives: online banking, credit cards, email, personal data collected and stored just about everywhere we do business, leaves us exposed and vulnerable to hackers. So what should you do if your personal information gets stolen? Here’s a summary the four-step guide from the government web site www.IdentityTheft.gov:
Call the companies where the theft occurred. Immediately call the fraud department and have them freeze or close your account. You’ll also want to change your login and password. This will stop the (financial) bleeding.
Place a fraud alert and get your credit report. You can call any one of the credit reporting bureaus to place a fraud alert:
Equifax.com (888) 766-0008
Experian.com (888) 397-3742
TransUnion.com (800) 680-7289
You’ll only need to file a report to one of these agencies since they are required to notify the other two. This is a free service and you’ll want to look for a letter from each agency confirming that the alert has been placed on your account. This will significantly reduce the likelihood of a thief opening a new account in your name.
You’ll also want to get a copy of your credit report so that you can view any activity that has taken place that you did not authorize. Remember, you get a free credit report every twelve months. However, if you are a victim of fraud, you can get a free report without having to wait for your twelve month cycle. These reports can take some time so if you’re willing to pay a small fee, you can get an instant report. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228
File a theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file your complaint online or call (877) 438-4338. The FTC will use your information to complete your Identity Theft Affidavit which you’ll want to print out and save. You can also use this site to update your affidavit should you become aware of other items.
File a report with your local police department. Local police may be unfamiliar with this process so you’ll need to be prepared by showing them:
FTC’s Memo to Law Enforcement – Available at the Consumer.FTC.gov website, this memo provides police the reason the report is necessary and the basics of data that should be included in the report.
Have a copy of your Identity Theft Affidavit.
Have a government issued ID with photo.
Be prepared to provide proof of your address. A Utility bill, mortgage statement or rental agreement should suffice.
Be sure to get a copy of the police report. Combining the Identity Theft Affidavit and the police report together create your Identity Theft Report which you can use to prove to businesses that someone stole your identity. It also guarantees you certain rights. For more information, visit www.IdentityTheft.gov.