When I read about the Anthem data breach a couple of weeks ago, my heart sank. Anthem was the healthcare insurance provider at my former employer, so I immediately feared that my personal information had been compromised. And given that this breach included more points of data than previous retailer breaches – it is believed that Anthem’s breached data included names, addresses, employment information, email addresses and Social Security numbers – there is an increased potential for identity theft for victims of this breach.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from the threat of identity theft? This week, as part of our coverage of National Consumer Protection Week, I’ll be writing about some ways that we can all monitor and protect our finances and identity. Some of the tactics – like setting up fraud alerts or credit freezes – are complex topics that will take a full article to explain. We’ll cover a couple of those topics later this week. Today, a few of the simpler steps we can take are covered below.
Change your password. Although it is not believed that passwords for online accounts were compromised in the Anthem breach, it is a good idea to periodically change your login passwords for online accounts to better protect yourself. And you should not use the same password for multiple sites, as the compromise of one site’s data could then reveal the personal information stored in all of the other sites on which you use that password.
File your taxes as early as possible. There has been a lot of news coverage lately about identity fraud related to taxes. Specifically, once someone has your Social Security number and a few other pieces of information about you, they could file a fraudulent tax return using your Social Security number. If they do so before you file your own tax return, instead of receiving the refund due to you, you’ll get a letter from the IRS saying that more than one tax return was filed for you. Resolving this problem is a hassle that you don’t want to face, and it delays your receipt of your tax refund. From now on, use the possible compromise of your Social Security number as a motivation to file your tax return as early as possible and don’t be a tax-filing procrastinator!
Review your accounts regularly. Routinely review your credit card charges and statements from financial institutions to check for fraudulent charges. If your credit card or financial institution offers email or text alerts to let you know that a transaction has occurred, sign up.
Get a shredder and USE IT. Paper shredders aren’t very expensive. You can get a small one for around $20. Shred any documents that you want to dispose of if they contain your name and address, credit or bank account numbers or other information that identity thieves can use.
Follow the latest news from Anthem. If you had Anthem insurance and may be part of the breach, you can get information from Anthem at https://www.anthemfacts.com/. The site has information, instructions, frequently asked questions, and links to the identity protection services that Anthem is providing to its customers. Please note that Anthem is sending notification to potential victims via printed letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service. If you receive an email or phone call from someone claiming to be Anthem and asking for personal information, it is most likely a scam. Don’t give them information and don’t click on any links in the email.