Steps to Prevent or Mitigate Identity Theft

Posted on Posted in Consumer Protection

In light of the recent security breach of an Anthem database that contained the personal records of 80 million current and former customers, you may have questions and concerns about whether your personal information has been stolen and what to do to prevent or recover from identity theft.  You can visit Anthem’s site about the event at http://www.anthemfacts.com/ and its FAQ at http://www.anthemfacts.com/faq to learn what the company is doing to notify or protect the victims of this breach.  If you think that your personal information has been compromised or your identity stolen, you may take one or more of the following steps:

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports by contacting one of the three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.  This is a sensible first step if you believe that your personal information may have been stolen in a large corporate data breach.  Placing a fraud alert with one credit reporting company requires it to notify the other two companies.  A fraud alert only lasts 90 days but can be renewed.
  2. Place a credit / security freeze on your credit report through Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.  You can read about the difference between a fraud alert and a security freeze here.  Note that you must place a security freeze with each of the three companies, and it remains in place until you remove or temporarily lift it.
  3. You are entitled to one free credit report (not including your credit score) from each of the three companies per year, which you can access at annualcreditreport.com.  You can check one of these reports every few months for free to verify the credit information.  You should dispute any inaccurate information or fraudulent accounts that you discover.
  4. If your identity is stolen, create an identity theft report to help you recover from the theft. To create one, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and print your identity theft affidavit. Use that to file a police report and then create your identity theft report.  Visit the FTC “Create an Identity Theft Report” page to learn more.