Privacy Protection of Personal and Financial Information
When your privacy is compromised, there are several preventative and active things you can do to protect yourself. Here are several proactive items that will help before an attacker can take advantage of any of your data that might be exposed:
- Contact the banks or credit unions where accounts may have been affected. This can include instances where your Social Security Number (SSN) or the account number itself was exposed. Often you can turn on notifications of any transactions occurring on your accounts. Banks and Credit Unions usually have robust fraud departments that can analyze behavior on your account and intervene.
- Often an attack may use your SSN and Identity to open credit accounts in your name. Contact any of the three credit reporting agencies and ask that a free fraud alert be placed on your credit report. Also ask for a free credit report to see if it may have already happened. You only need to contact one of the three agencies because Federal law requires the agency you call to contact the other two.
Other potential protection options and best practices for account security are listed below.
Once you have a fraud alert on your credit report, a business must verify your identity before it issues new credit in your name. The alert remains active for a year and can be renewed by you for up to seven years.
- Change the passwords, pin numbers, and log in information for any of your potentially affected accounts, including your email accounts, and especially any that use the same password, pin, or log-in information.
- In the case that your SSN may have been exposed, go to the webpage of the Federal Trade Commission, report the ID theft and create an identity theft recovery plan: IdentityTheft.gov
- Place a Security Freeze at the credit bureaus.
A security freeze is different from a fraud alert. Once your credit report is frozen, the credit reporting agency cannot release it without your express approval. Under federal law, a security freeze is free, and obtaining one will not affect your credit score. To obtain a freeze, you must contact each of the credit reporting agencies individually and comply with their requirements, as putting a freeze at one bureau does not trigger a freeze at the others. The agency must place the freeze within one business day, and if you request the freeze be lifted, they must do so within one hour. Learn more at:
- Experian : https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- Transunion : https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze
- Equifax : https://www.equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/credit-freeze/
Account Protection Best Practices
Being proactive and informed about your accounts is key to protecting your personal information and minimizing the risks of identity theft. As a matter of good information security hygiene and best practices, remember to:
- Regularly monitor your accounts: Keep a close eye on your financial accounts, credit reports, and online activities to spot any signs of unauthorized access or suspicious activity promptly.
- Use secure Wi-Fi networks: Avoid accessing sensitive information or making financial transactions while connected to public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Sometimes you can use a virtual private network (VPN) for added security.
- Secure personal documents: Safeguard physical copies of important documents, such as your Social Security card, birth certificate, and passport. Store them in a secure location, preferably in a locked cabinet or safe.
- Be cautious with personal information, you own and particularly if you deal with someone else’s: Be selective about sharing personal information online or over the phone. Be wary of unsolicited requests for personal details and only provide information to trusted sources. Don’t discuss or reveal personal information over the phone, in an elevator, or anywhere in public spaces around strangers who may shoulder surf your screen or listen to your conversation.
- Educate yourself: Stay informed about current security threats and best practices for online safety through the news, training, or your Information Security Office. Regularly update your knowledge on identity theft protection techniques.