What do you do if you are a victim of a Data Breach

With 783 data breaches in 2014 alone, it seems like there is little respect for the protection of our confidential information.  

The recent security breach with Anthem is of great concern to me because it represents far more personal data (both in quantity and quality) than many of the threats in the recent past.  It used to be that we would be concerned about a store losing our credit card information, but that pales in comparison to Anthem’s breach. When a credit card breach is identified, the cards are cancelled and there are some protections in place to limit your financial liability.  With Anthem’s breach, names, addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, employment and income data are all compromised.  Together this has the potential to be a real threat for 80 million people.  

In the case with Anthem, data was exposed which could result in a criminal utilizing your information for a number of damaging reasons.  This is pretty consequential.  These criminals could take out credit in your good name and you may not know about it for some time, and the cleanup after-the-fact could be substantial.  Imagine the conversation you might have with a credit provider, explaining how that card they issued in your name wasn’t for you?   Before we get too panicked, know there are some safeguards in place by lenders which help limit the likelihood of someone stealing your financial identity.  So we can feel a little better about our fiscal security.  Sadly, that could be the tip of the iceburg.  You have to wonder if this information will be used to create a passport, drivers license or other credentials in your name; This could result in you being detained or even jailed if they committed a crime with your identity.  Imagine your surprise if you were expecting a tax refund only to find "you" already collected it; or if someone used your social security number to get a job, but didn't pay taxes.  The list goes on.  

An important point here is, that we don’t know the who or why of this breach.  It’s possible that it is a group of people trying to simply expose vulnerabilities and create panic to exact reform.  It's not uncommon for people to do something just because they could.  

So what can you do if you are a victim of a data breach?  

Be vigilant in monitoring your financial statements.  Many scams involve charging your account a few dollars a month over a long period of time.  

Check your credit reports several times a year.  There are three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion).  Each agency provides 1 free credit report per year, so if you run one every 4 months, each year you will have a good handle on activity.  To run your credit report, visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com.  For more information about free credit reports, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports.  There are also Credit Monitoring sites such as https://www.creditkarma.com and https://www.wallethub.com which will provide you with your credit score, activity, trending and more, for free.  You will receive constant “recommendations” (ads) on banking alternatives but these site have a lot to offer.

Consider freezing your credit.  Each credit reporting agency allows you to freeze your credit. To do this, you will need to visit each site (Experian, Equifax and Transunion) to complete the request.  Freezing your credit means that these agencies will not report your information to others.  This means that lending companies are unable to obtain your credit report and without this report, the would not issue credit.  This is an excellent method to protecting your credit but bear in mind that when you want to get a new car, mortgage, credit card or insurance, you will need to thaw your credit to proceed.  There may also be a fee to freeze and or thaw your credit.

Identity protection and credit monitoring.  These are services which monitor your credit for activities which suggest there may be something malicious happening with your credit.  Additionally, many offer recovery services or identity theft insurance and other services.

Identity Theft insurance coverage is available at some insurance companies, and it could be included as part of your homeowners or other coverage.  Bear in mind, insurance does nothing to protect your credit or identity, it is reactive to aid in the restoration of such an event.

Don't be duped

There are scams already starting where you may be contacted via email or phone aleging that they are from Anthem.  If you should receive a call, DO NOT PROVIDE ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION.  If you should receive an email which takes you to a website, again DO NOT PROVIDE ANY PERSONAL INFORMATION.  

More information

For more information about this event, visit the Federal Trade Commission's website or Anthem's website.  

Anthem will be offering members with credit monitoring and ID protection services.  This will be communicated via postal mail.