In January, health insurer Anthem discovered a cyber attack that may have compromised the data of 80,000 people. In July, the Office of Personnel and Management revealed its computer systems had been breached, reporting that the personal data for 21.5 million defense employees and contractors was stolen. That came on top of a previous hack of 4.2 million federal employees’ personnel data. And now United Airlines announced its computer systems were hacked.
Following its hack, Anthem offered identity-theft and credit-monitoring services for 24 months to people impacted through AllClear ID.
OPM gave affected individuals CSID Protector Plus for 18 months. This service includes credit monitoring, change-of-address monitoring, social security tracking and identity theft insurance. CSID also offers identity restoration services.
OPM also offered the following advice:
• Place a fraud alert on your credit file.
• Pay attention to the URL of a website. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain
• If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request, instead, check previous statements for contact information.
From these high-profile data breaches, any one of us can glean some practical guidance toward restoring our identity if it’s compromised. Also, the Federal Trade Commission offers a step-by-step guide at IdentityTheft.gov
To protect against identity theft, it’s wise to be proactive. Order credit reports from the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each one offers a free report once a year, and if you stagger your requests, that means that you can review your personal data files every four months. Also ask these bureaus about their security freeze and fraud alert services. You can also sign up for free alerts from your bank and credit card companies that will inform you if a charge is made to your card for more than $100, for example, or if your checking balance falls under a certain amount.