Hey, you know how the responsible people in your life are always warning you about identity theft and telling you to keep your social security number private? Is the warning phrase "update often" ringing through your head? Well, if these warnings haven't already made you into a neurotic nutcase, this might: The federal government has discovered two cyber-security hacks in 2015. And as more information comes out about the incidents, the government has done its best to provide information on what to do if your social security number was compromised in the federal data hack.
Here's the gist: In April, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) found that the personal information of more than 4.2 million current and former government employees had been hacked. This information includes full names, birth dates, home address, and social security numbers. You know, nothing major. In June, a hack occurred of information that included "background investigation records of current, former, and prospective Federal employees and contractors," according to the OPM's website.
Now, these later discoveries pose a significant cause for concern: Anyone who has applied for a background investigation by the federal government could be a candidate for identity theft. According to the FTC, this includes more than 19.7 million individuals who applied for background investigations and 1.8 million non-applicants, including the spouses and immediate family members of those applicants. Current or former military employees and current or former federal contractors are also subject to the hack. If you fall under any of these categories, here are a few things you can do immediately.
Do As Much Damage Control As Possible
According to the FTC's website, there are things you can do after identity theft to mitigate further disaster. Call any place of business where fraud could have occurred and freeze your accounts, if your bank hasn't already. Change all logins and passwords to any accounts. Place a fraud alert on your account and contact one of the three credit bureaus recommended by the FTC, listed below. After contacting one of these agencies, get your credit report. File a report with the FTC, and of course, contact your police department. In simple terms: Shut it all down.
Here's who the FTC says you can call to get your credit report ASAP:
- Equifax.com/CreditReportAssistance(link is external)1-888-766-0008
- Experian.com/fraudalert(link is external)1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion.com/fraud(link is external)1-800-680-7289
Step Back And Assess The Damage
After ensuring that no further harm can be done to your private information, the FTC recommends that people close any new accounts in their name. Call the fraud department of each business and ask them to remove any charges on your account that you did not make. And write to each of the three credit bureaus listed above to report any fraudulent charges. The FTC urges those affected to keep all letters or evidence of contact with each business, in case a closed account shows up on your credit report later. To review: Shut it down and make sure it stays shut down.
A Few More Things
The above list includes only the absolute must-dos in this situation. Go to www.identitytheft.gov to view the full list of precautions. The FTC also stated that anyone who has additional federal accounts, such as student loans (insert hand-raise emoji), should report fraud to those services as well. So the news here is that you can never be too cautious if you've been a victim of identity theft. To repeat our phrase of the day: Shut it all down.
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