What you should know and do
The other day my brother received a letter from a major company notifying him that his information had been breached. He was quite casual in responding to the letter until I explained to him it’s imperative that he take action to protect his identity. After that, he got on the phone right away and made some calls.
One of the ways a data breach happens is when a person, whether they are authorized or unauthorized, gains control over a company’s electronic files or accidently misplaces them. One lost laptop can contain records of thousands of consumers who then stand a chance to lose financially when a data breach occurs.
When a company’s records are lost or stolen, your sensitive information (like your Social Security number or bank account information) can land in the hands of an identity thief. The thief then can use your information to siphon money from your bank account, gain access to your credit cards, or to create new accounts in your name. As a result, your credit reports can be blemished with unpaid accounts and you can start receiving phone calls from collection agencies.
What you should know:
1. State laws typically require the business to notify affected customers within a certain amount of time or be subject to a fine.
2. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands all have some type of data breach law. Five states – Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Colorado – do not.
3. In the past, some companies have paid for six to twelve months of credit monitoring for affected individuals. While this is something the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends to businesses that have suffered a data breach, it isn’t a requirement.
What you should do:
If you receive a notification of a data breach from a company you’ve done business with, it’s recommended you do the following:
1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
2. Monitor your credit reports to detect cases of identity theft or enroll with a product that will monitor your credit reports everyday such as ProtectMyID.com.
3. Notify the local police, the FTC, and your creditors, if you believe you’ve been a victim of identity theft.