You come home one day to discover a data breach notification letter in your mailbox from one of your creditors. It states that an employee laptop, or some files containing your name, date of birth, and social security number have been lost or stolen. This is not uncommon. Often, these types of data breaches are accidental. Other times, they’re criminal. Even though your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft are higher, it’s not certain. This means, however, that it would be wise to verify that your personal information isn’t being misused to commit fraud.
Following are some important steps you should take to protect your identity, privacy, and credit should you receive a data breach notification letter.
Breach Notification Letter Tips
- Credit Bureau Notification: Contact the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) and request to have an initial 90-day fraud alert placed on your credit file.
- Request A Free Copy Of Your Annual Credit Report: Take great care to review your credit reports. If you find inaccurate information, contact the companies listed on the credit report(s) directly. You can also contact the Identity Theft Resource Center, a non-profit, at (888) 400-5530 to assist you, and/or subscribe to an identity and credit monitoring service to alert you when your personal information is used.
- If You Confirm That You’re A Victim Of Identity Theft, Create An Identity Theft Report With The Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Expect law enforcement to request a copy of this report when you contact them.
- Consider Placing An Extended Fraud Alert Or Security Freeze On Your Credit: Creditors will still have access to your credit file, even though you’ve placed a 7-year extended fraud alert, but must first contact you to verify your identity before extending credit. A credit freeze generally prevents creditors from accessing your credit file. To request one, you must call each credit bureau directly. Laws vary by state.
- File Your Tax Returns As Soon As You Can: Filing an early tax return protects you from identity thieves who could file and collect your tax refund before you do.
- Contact The Social Security Administration: Request a copy of your wage earning report to verify that your social security number is not being used fraudulently, which could result in your owing taxes for wages earned by someone who’s stolen your information.
Taking these steps will take a time commitment on your part. Consider the alternative and protect your good name. Be prepared.