As you may have heard, the nationwide health Insurer Anthem (which offers a number of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans) was hacked and their systems breached – meaning that databases holding the names, Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, email and employment information for as many as 80 million people were compromised.
While the full extent of the breach, and the specific individuals who had their information stolen, are not yet known, a data breach like this can lead to problems like financial fraud, damaged credit and identity theft.
The good news is that there are easy steps you can take today to secure your information and help reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Easy Steps to Secure Your Online Information
- Get Your Free Credit Reports: Credit reports combine all of your different credit card, loan and payment reports into a single credit file. Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three major credit reporting companies. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free credit reports, look for unfamiliar accounts and make sure everything is correct, and recheck them periodically for suspicious changes.
- Change your Passwords: If you have an account with Anthem, change your Anthem password and the passwords for all other accounts with the same password. Consider using different passwords rather than the same one when changing them.
- Place Fraud Alerts On Your Credit Reports: A fraud alert is a temporary message placed on your credit report that tells potential credit grantors to verify your identification before extending credit in your name in case someone is using your information without your consent. Note that placing a 90-day alert on your reports may cost money, as will lifting it. You can contact each agency at: experian.com/fraud (1-888-397-3742), fraud.transunion.com (1-800-680-7289), and alerts.equifax.com (1-800-525-6285).
- Impose a Security Freeze on your Charge Accounts if Necessary: If you know that you've been breached or are particularly concerned, you can place a security freeze on your credit reports that will prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your consent. Be aware that this may delay or interfere with the timely approval of any requests or applications you make for new credit, loans or services. Use the following links: experian.com/freeze/center.html (1-888-397-3742), transunion.com/securityfreeze (1-800-680-7289), and freeze.equifax.com (1-800-525-6285).
- Learn More About the Anthem Breach: Anthem has a series of Frequently Asked Questions that can help consumers better understand what happened, what kinds of information may have been compromised, and what to watch for in the coming weeks as the investigation unfolds. Anthem has also stated that it will provide free credit monitoring and ID protection services to those affected by the breach. Note that Anthem will only contact you about the breach by regular mail – not by phone or email – so be wary of such contacts, as they may be a scam.
For more information about the Anthem breach itself, visit http://www.anthemfacts.com/ or contact my office at (916) 319-2025.