There are no guarantees that a hacker can be stopped from using your information once they have obtained it, but your quick and thorough response when you first learn about a breach can help decrease the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft.
A data breach (sometimes called a “security breach”) occurs when someone who is not authorized to do so has obtained your personal identifying information. Recently, a significant number of data breaches have occurred because a computer hacker or hackers gained access to information stored by large organizations and businesses.
IMPORTANT: While a scammer or hacker may have your personal information, this is not identity theft! Identity theft does not occur until an unauthorized person fraudulently uses that information to secure money, goods or services in your name.
Below is some general information you should know if your information was exposed in a data breach. More detailed information is provided in our Data Breach Repair Kit©. Call us at 1-855-463-4343 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to order your kit. A discount is available for members of the Maine Association of Retirees (MAR.) Call MAR at (207) 582-1960 for more information. In the unfortunate event that someone uses your information to commit identity theft, we will gladly credit the cost of the Breach Repair Kit toward the purchase of our ME ID Help Kit©.
– Be on guard for phishing emails or phone calls which may increase after your information has been breached. Some scammers may pretend to be from your bank or credit card company. If you receive an email claiming to be from a bank or credit card company don’t open any attachments or click on any links in the email. Contact your bank or credit card company by phone at their regular business phone number (not a phone number shown in an email.)
– The free credit monitoring services offered to victims by some companies that have sustained a breach do not protect you from certain types of identity theft, such as fraudulent use of your existing card number to make purchases and income tax identity theft which is now the fastest growing type of identity theft. If you have been offered a free year of credit monitoring services, please stay vigilant – DO NOT ASSUME that the service will catch and stop all types of identity theft.
– Make sure that your account information hasn’t been changed by a thief. Check with the bank to be sure that names and mailing addresses for your accounts are as you provided. Be very alert to any delays in receiving your bank statements in the mail and call the bank if you notice a delay to make sure that your account information hasn’t been re-directed to a thief.
– If you have been a victim of a breach, your credit card company may learn about it before you. Often, your first indication may be a letter from your credit card company saying that they have cancelled your current card and issued a new one to you which will be sent to you. Check to make sure that you receive the new card and make sure to call the number provided to activate the new card as soon as possible.
– You may also place a fraud alert on your credit reports. The fraud alert WILL NOT prevent a thief from using your existing credit card information to make purchases; however it may prevent the thief from opening new accounts using your name and information. The initial fraud alert will be in place for 90 days but may be extended to seven years if you become a victim of identity theft.
Here are the phone numbers for you to place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit reports:
Equifax – 1-800-525-6285
Experian – 1-888-397-3742
Transunion – 1-800-680-7289
– If your email account information was affected, you will need to contact your email provider as soon as possible and change the password for your email account.
Here are some additional suggestions for securing your information:
– Remember that use of a credit card offers you better protections under federal laws than the use of a debit card.
– To avoid nuisance calls, you may want to add your home or mobile phone number to the “Do Not Call” list. This will prevent legitimate businesses from contacting you by phone. (Unfortunately, scammers do not pay attention to rules or laws and so placing your phone number on this list will not prevent scammers from phoning you.)
Here is the number to call for the “Do Not Call” list: 1-888-382-1222.
– If you want to limit the number of solicitations you receive through the mail, you may want to place your information on the registry maintained by the Direct Marketing Association, Inc. You can contact them to receive more information about this service by calling: 212-768-7277, ext. 1888.
– Make sure that you create different passwords for each of your online accounts. Use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols to limit the chance that someone might be able to guess your password.
– This best advice comes from the National Cyber Security Alliance: Stay safe online. Treat all websites as unsecure websites and limit the information you place online. If you wouldn’t put the information on a public billboard, don’t put it online.
Maine Identity Services, LLC was created to assist data breach and identity theft victims and to serve as a resource for municipal, county and state police. We are here to help. Please call us at 1-855-463-4343 if we can answer your questions or provide any additional information. We can also be reached by email at: email@example.com