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Tips for Consumers: What to do Post-Breach

Story Courtesy of Finacial Services - Information Sharing and Analysis Center

Data breaches pose a potential risk to consumers in the form of identity theft, account takeover and fraud when personal and sensitive information is compromised. The following are tips for consumers to consider in reducing the risk or impact of data breaches.

Place a Security Freeze on Credit Reports

A security freeze protects against identity theft and the opening of fraudulent accounts with a consumer’s personal information. It will block an institution or lender from accessing a report, unless a pre-set PIN is provided to “thaw” the report; a credit report may be thawed at a particular bureau for a period of time or for a specific lender. Consumers must contact each of the bureaus listed below to place a security freeze.

Note: Each of the credit bureaus will give or allow you to create a PIN to be used to thaw or unfreeze your report in the future. It is very important you do not lose or forget this PIN! It is recommended to store it in multiple locations with other important documents, including a safe deposit box or home lockbox, or in a password-protected format electronically.

Go to each of the following sites to place a security freeze and follow the instructions; record and protect the PIN:

Some states charge fees to place a freeze, thaw or unfreeze a credit report; see the sites above for specific state details.

Place a Fraud Alert on Credit Reports

A fraud alert on credit reports requires potential creditors to contact the consumer and obtain permission to open new accounts or lines of credit. Consumers are allowed by law to report they are an identity theft victim and file a fraud alert (aka a “security alert”) every 90 days; with proper documentation such as a police report, the fraud alert period may be extended to seven years.

If consumers contact one of the first three listed below, that bureau is required to contact the other two; consumers must contact the fourth bureau directly to place an alert.

Check Credit Report Annually

Consumers are entitled by law to a free credit report from each of the credit reporting bureaus once a year.

The free credit report will show all lines of credit and other obligations, along with other public data. It will not show the FICO score; consumers may contact their financial institution or a credit card issuer to request the FICO score. It usually costs a fee to retrieve a FICO score.

It is recommended consumers check their report three times a year by pulling the report for one bureau every four months. Items to watch for are “new” or “re-opened” accounts and other suspicious activity.

Note: Consumers need to beware of other sites that try to sell a credit report or offer a “free” report if you agree to sign up for a subscription service – usually credit monitoring. Also, watch out for look-alike sites that are not real, like “freecreditreport”.

Leverage Financial Institution Safeguards

Check with financial institution for these additional account protections:

Protect Against Fraud Scams:

Protect Personal and Financial Information: