Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to change their passwords on email accounts and monitor their credit card and other financial accounts closely in the wake of a data breach at Anthem Inc. that may have affected millions of the health insurer’s present and former customers.
According to Anthem and news reports, the hackers accessed information including names, birthdays, medical IDs, Social Security numbers, street addresses and employment information, including income data. Medical records and credit card numbers apparently were not the main interest of the hackers, but the data they stole could allow them to open new accounts and commit identity theft on a grand scale.
Anthem has set up a website, http://www.anthemfacts.com/, to provide information for customers whose information may have been hacked. The company says it will notify affected customers and provide them with credit monitoring services.
Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, advises consumers to check their credit reports to determine whether new accounts have been opened in their names.
“Consumers should check their credit reports every year to make sure the information is accurate. This would be a good time to go to www.annualcreditreport.com and request a report from one of the three major credit reporting agencies,” Corey said. “Then request one from another agency in a few months and from the third one a few months after that. It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on your credit card and other financial accounts.”
If a consumer finds fraudulent or inaccurate information, they should report it to the credit reporting agency that has the report and ask for it to be removed.
Consumers also can ask the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on their reports. The direct contact information for the three agencies is as follows:
- Experian, P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013; (888) 888-8553
- Equifax, P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374; (800) 685-1111
- TransUnion, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634; (800) 680-7289
Parents also should request a credit report on any children covered by Anthem. Hackers often prefer to open accounts in children’s names because they may not previously have had credit, and thus their credit reports will be free of any negative information.
If you find fraud on a credit card or bank account, contact the institution that issued the card or holds the account. Credit card issuers typically limit a customer’s liability for fraudulent charges. They also are interested in catching criminals and stopping the fraud.
If you believe any of your online account logins or passwords may have been breached, change the passwords immediately. Use strong passwords that include a combination of letters and numbers and, if possible, symbols.
More BBB tips for securing your personal information:
Do not take a “wait and see” approach as you may have done with breaches involving credit card data. You must act quickly. Breaches involving Social Security numbers have the potential to be far more detrimental to victims, and the damage can be difficult to repair.
Consider taking a pre-emptive strike by freezing your credit reports. This will not impact existing credit cards and financial accounts, but will create a roadblock for thieves seeking to create fraudulent accounts using your personal information.
At a minimum, if you know your Social Security number has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. While less effective than a freeze, this will provide an extra layer of protection. Click here to learn more about security freezes and fraud alerts.
Take advantage of the free credit monitoring services Anthem will be offering to breach victims. While this is not a preventative measure, this will alert you to see new accounts or inquiries using your Social Security number so that you can act quickly to repair the damage.
Vigilance is key. Regularly check your credit reports at www.annualcreditreport.com for unauthorized charges or other signs of fraud. (NOTE: This is the only free credit report option authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.)
For more information and complete step-by-step guidance on repairing the damage caused by identity theft, visit the FTC’s identity theft resources.
Expect that scammers will take advantage of this data breach to send out phishing emails and other messages that appear to be from Anthem, a credit bureau or other legitimate companies. Do not click on links from any email, text or social media messages about this or any other data breach.
For all businesses that collect customer information:
Make sure you protect your customers’ data. If a data breach can happen to a major corporation with significant data security measures in place, it can happen to any business.
Check out BBB’s updated online guide Data Security – Made Simpler for free information on how to create a data security plan.
For more consumer tips or to check out a business or charity, go to www.bbb.org.