Steps to Take Now That Your Personal Information Has Been Distributed
Today, many were awakening to learn that the City of Akron’s internal computer system was hacked by a group of Turkish radicals. According to Ohio.com, 47,452 entries of personal information associated with income tax filings including names, addresses, social security numbers and even credit card information has been compromised. The hackers have even gone so far as to post some of this “stolen” personal and private information on the internet.
While the City of Akron decides on how to respond to the potential damage to residents and taxpayers, as well as shore up their IT infrastructure security, we want to provide you with some proactive identity theft advice.
Identity theft is the fasting growing white collar crime in the United States. Taking a proactive approach can mitigate any potential future losses. You must be vigilant.
Combating the crime of identity theft is for the most part reactionary – in other words something “bad” had already occurred. Since you may have not been a “victim” as yet, let’s review some preventative measures that you may wish to consider.
Place a Fraud Alert
Contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus and request to place a fraud alert on any names wherein personal information has been compromised. A “Fraud Alert” is free and lasts for 90 days. The three bureaus share fraud alerts with each other.
- Equifax 1-800-525-6285
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion 1-800-680-7289
Issuing a fraud alert will make it more difficult for you to secure credit since the credit bureau will now have to verify your identity before credit is granted. A fraud alert is not the same as freezing your credit. Someone can still access your credit report with a fraud alert in place if you so authorize.
Secure Your Free Credit Reports
By law you are permitted to secure for free one copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (phone numbers above). You should secure a copy now and do so going forward on an annual basis. If you note any transaction that is not yours report it immediately to the credit reporting bureau.
Credit Monitoring Services
Another option to consider, if such has not been provided free to you by the agency that was responsible for the data breech, is to consider a credit monitoring service. You can do what a credit monitoring service does for free. A credit monitoring service can place a fraud alert on your account as well place a freeze on your credit. A credit monitoring service will usually send you an email alerting you that credit is being extended in your name or that someone has inquired as to your credit. Credit monitoring services charge based on the frequency of notification – the more frequent notification, the higher the cost.
Place a Credit Freeze on Your Account
It is easy and relatively inexpensive to freeze your credit. Fees associated with initiating a credit freeze vary by state. For Ohio residents, placing a “freeze” on your account, if you have not been an identity theft victim, will cost $5 per account per credit reporting bureau. If you have been an identity theft victim and have filed a police report these services are free. To “thaw” your account or to remove the “freeze” will also cost you $5 per transaction per credit reporting bureau.
All you need to do is contact each of the three credit reporting bureaus. A freeze will last until you remove it. If you need to “thaw” your credit in order to allow someone access to it, remember there is a $5 fee to “thaw” and then a $5 fee to “re-freeze” your account for each credit reporting bureau.
- Equifax 1-800-685-1111 (Press 3)
- TransUnion 1-888-909-8872
- Experian 1-888-397-3742
File a Police Report
We always recommend that identity theft victims immediately file a police report, but in your case, your identity has not been fraudulently used (at this point) without your authorization. As a result you are not a victim. Nonetheless, you must remain vigilant in monitoring your credit.
If you do determine that you have been a “victim” of a fraudulent financial transaction, please contact Frank Suponcic, CPA, CFE, CFF in our Business Valuation & Litigation Advisory Services group at 440-449-6800 and we can assist you and recommend additional steps beyond these preventative measures discussed herein.