Data Breach Victims: 10 Tips to Protect Your Credit and Identity

The notification that you’ve been affected by a data breach was a shocker, to say the least. But it is the unfortunate reality that identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the nation. The FBI has warned that there will be more announcements in the coming weeks.

This article will introduce you to 10 steps to protect your credit and identity.

1. Free Credit Monitoring

Consider credit monitoring a security system for your credit and identity, assets definitely worth protecting. You will be alerted when there are changes to your credit report that could indicate fraud.

If you’ve been offered complimentary credit monitoring be sure to ask whether one or all three credit bureau’s reports will be monitored.

2. Request New Card and PIN

Hackers infected point of sale systems with viruses that copied your credit or debit card details and submitted them to their own database. Your information is likely in a pool of accounts now available on the underground black market for sale.

Contact your bank or credit card company and request a new card. Confirm that your mailing address has not been fraudulently updated.

Once the new card is received, create a hard-to-guess PIN. Avoid using street number, date of birth or last four digits of your Social Security number.

3. Add Account Alerts to Bank and Credit Card Accounts

The credit monitoring mentioned above does not include survey of existing credit card and bank accounts for suspicious activity. You must set up those alerts with the issuing institutions.

4. Obtain Identity Theft Insurance

Identity theft insurance is included in the free monitoring provided by breached intitutions. In the event your identity is stolen, it would cover recovery expenses such as: lost wages, legal fees and stolen funds not reimbursed by banks and/or credit card companies.

If you choose not to enroll in the free monitoring, your insurance agent can provide policies starting as low as $25/month.

5. Place a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Report

A fraud alert is a message attached to your credit report to potential credit grantors to not process credit applications submitted in your name until the applicant’s identity has been verified.

6. Order Three Credit Reports

There are three major companies or credit bureaus that collect and organize this consumer information: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Credit grantors and other data providers must report to only one agency – not all three. It is highly unlikely that the reports from the three bureaus are identical. For that reason, it is imperative to review all three reports after an event like this.

7. Initiate a Dispute of Inaccuracies on Credit Report

Most consumers have errors on their credit reports. It’s incumbent upon you tokeep a watchful eye on what is being reported.

Correction of errors begins with a dispute, a consumer’s challenge of information reported by a credit grantor or other data provider to one or more credit reporting agencies.

8. Opt Out of Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers

A pre-screened offer is made by a creditor who has requested a list of consumers meeting specific criteria from a credit bureau. For example, a creditor could request a list of consumers with credit scores of 680 or higher.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the ability to opt-out of these offers by removing your name from the marketing lists.

9. Complete Lost Wallet Scan

Losing a purse or wallet can be devastating. The thought of potential financial loss or identity theft is sickening. Make copies of all important information stored in your purse or wallet – fronts and backs if necessary. The main goal of copying is to have a file with all necessary company contact numbers and account numbers when needed.

10. Place a Credit Freeze on Your Report

A credit freeze blocks ALL access to a consumer’s credit report until he gives permission to release it. Credit freezes may be the most effective way to prevent identity theft.

This list is not exhaustive. It is simply designed to help you create a family protection plan.

Fortunately retail data breach victims’ Social Security numbers have not been compromised. But the information that was stolen is sufficient to cause significant damage if consumers are not vigilant.

This article has equipped you with the understanding and resources necessary to develop a coordinated monitoring and tracking system of your credit and banking accounts.

Identity theft happens in seconds, but it can take years to restore your credit and good name.