Is Your Information Out There
According to Equifax, the breach involved 143 million U.S.-based individuals, and the leak included birth dates, addresses, full names, and social security numbers. If youre an ID thief, you couldnt ask for much more than that. Equifax has set up a site where you can check to see if they think your ID has been affected, but it requires you to give them your personal information. No thanks.
Shuman Ghosemajumder, chief technology officer of Shape Security, points out that even a negative result in the check shouldnt really be that comforting. Just because you werent a part of this breach doesnt mean your data wasnt leaked in some other incident, he says. There have been so many of these in the past several years, you should probably act as though your data has been compromised anyway. He went on to explain that this hack is different than the typical corporate incident because you didnt have to be a direct customer of Equifax to be affected. Even if you didnt have an account on their site, your info could still be involved.
Can I Get A New Social Security Number
The short answer is yes, but its a long, tedious, and often very expensive process. Having helped roughly 50 people go through the process , Dixon calls it the beyond nuclear option..
Sometimes people will choose to walk away from their old lives because they fear for their safety, says Dixon. If you want to keep your life and stop the theft, you want to try and freeze your credit first and explore every other option make it your part-time job to stay on top of your credit issues.
If you decide to get a new SSN, Dixon says to contact an attorneypreferably one that specializes in identity theftand prepare as much documentation as possible. Not only is that number linked to your financial accounts, but its also linked to your educational institutions, your loans, and certification boards for careers like teacher and doctor.
Even if youre able to get a new number, that information will need to be crosswalked to your new number to ensure that you can still prove your college education or job certification.
So, while you can get a new SSN, its considered a nuclear option, and it can likely be avoided if you take care now to keep your data as secure as possible.
You Can Put A Security Freeze On Your Credit Report
This is the most foolproof thing you can do, but there are downsides. A freeze means no one can pull your credit reportso no one can apply for new lines of credit in your name, not even you.
Identity theft victims can get a freeze for free, but others have to pay. Prices vary by state. It can cost up to $30 to institute a freeze and $12 to lift. You have to “lift” the freeze every time you apply for credit, so that the creditor can check your report.
In other words, there could be a $12 surcharge every time you apply for a credit card, mortgage, or even a job or apartment. For that reason, credit freezes aren’t always a practical solution, especially not for young people who move around a lot.
Request A New Social Security Number
This is a painful step, but its not entirely required, especially if youre confident the SSN leak was minimal and you still have your card in hand. Requesting a new Social Security number from the Social Security Administration is a lengthy and involved process. You have to have proof that your number was stolen, that you suffered as a result of the incident, and that youve done everything possible to catch the thief. You also have to make sure your old Social Security number is still valid.
If youve suffered from extreme SSN or identity theft, this may be your best course of action. See the information page on the Social Security Adminstration website to get started with replacing your number with a new one.
You Put An Account Number Into A Dummy Website
Some phishing emails or fraudulent URLs are created to look so convincingly like your bank’s, it is easy to mistakenly enter your username and password or, if they ask for it, your checking or savings account number. Other websites are made to emulate popular e-commerce or retail websites, tricking you into entering your credit card details.
If you’ve given away any of these numbers, call your bank immediately and describe the error in detail. Your bank should be able to read back any charges have been made fraudulently and connect you to the right department to help freeze or suspend the accounts that may have been comrpomised. You can typically find the fraud department directly by using the fraud services number on the back of your credit card, or on the bank’s website.
If fraudulent charges have been made, you may have to fill out a paper report, and any reimbursement may take time, typically a bit longer for debit cards than for credit cards. Here’s a version of one of these forms, used by Inova Federal Credit Union. A banker may call you to ask follow-up questions.
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What Can You Do To Prevent This From Going Bad
As penance for its screw-up, Equifax is offering a year of credit monitoring and fraud alerts, which is something you should really be doing already anyway, and it shouldnt stop after just a year. The individual bureaus offer their own services, but you can also get a more overarching plan from a third-party like LifeLock or Identity Force. They each come with their own advantages and disadvantages ranging from price to coverage options, but the good ones will provide assistance in the case someone actually uses your identity for something nefarious.
Dixon suggests making an account with the Social Security Administration before someone else is able to do so using your information. Setting up an account only takes a few minutes, but will require that you have some information on-hand. During the registration process, it may ask you about things like active loans you have, monthly payment amounts, or even older accounts from a couple years ago. Failing to provide the correct info locks you out for 24 hours, so you only get one chance per day.
What To Do If You Lose Your Social Security Card
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- Your Social Security number can be valuable information for identity thieves
- Consider placing a security freeze or fraud alert on your credit reports if your Social Security card is lost
- If you know your Social Security number has been stolen, there are some additional steps you can take
Your Social Security number is a valuable piece of information to identity thieves. Its a key element of your identity and is also linked to taxes and credit information. And except in limited circumstances, it cant be changed. Thats why its so worrisome to have your card lost or stolen.
Here are some steps to take for a lost or stolen Social Security card:
1. Consider placing a fraud alert or a security freeze on your credit reports or locking them. With an initial fraud alert, potential lenders and creditors are encouraged to take additional steps to verify your identity, such as contacting you by phone, before extending new credit. A fraud alert lasts for one year and can be renewed. Fraud alerts are free. Contact one of the three nationwide credit bureaus Equifax, Experian or TransUnion to request a fraud alert, and that bureau will notify the other two.
Options for locking your credit report may also be available from the three nationwide credit bureaus. Learn more about fraud alerts, security freezes and credit report locks.
You might also consider calling the Social Security Administration at 772-1213 to report the lost card.
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Why Service Canada Does Not Issue New Social Insurance Numbers For Those Affected By A Data Breach
A new Social Insurance Number is not a fresh start or protection from fraud or identity theft.
If someone else uses your old Social Insurance Number and the business does not check the persons identity, you may have to prove you were not involved in the fraud or pay the impostors debts.
The Government can only share your new Social Insurance Number with the federal departments and agencies that use your Social Insurance Number.
This means that it would be up to you to provide your new Social Insurance Number to all the financial institutions, creditors, pension providers, recent and current employers, and any other organizations with which you shared your old Social Insurance Number.
Not doing or failing to do so properly risks not receiving benefits or leaves the door open to subsequent fraud or identity theft.
A new Social Insurance Number does not erase your old Social Insurance Number. You would therefore need to monitor your accounts and credit reports for both Social Insurance Numbers on a regular and ongoing basis. This would put burden on you. Numerous Social Insurance Numbers multiply the risk of fraud.
The best way to protect yourself if you are affected by a data breach:
What To Do If Your Social Security Number Was Found On The Dark Web
Many members of the UC Berkeley community have recently received alerts from Experian that their Social Security numbers were found on the dark web, a part of the web that does not show up in online searches.
This occurred following news from the University of California about a cyberattack impacting the UC and hundreds of other organizations.
Individuals who have not yet signed up for the free credit and identity monitoring, and consequently who may not be aware of potential exposure of their information, shouldnow, said Jenn Stringer, Berkeleys associate vice chancellor for IT and chief information officer. For help with enrolling, call 617-1923 and reference engagement number DB26512.
Stringer acknowledged that receiving a message from a credit monitoring service about your Social Security number being found on the dark web can be unsettling. She received one herself and advises everyone to continue to check their notifications and follow the instructions .
Anthony D. Joseph, a Berkeley engineering professor and an expert in cybersecurity, noted the importance of the Experian alerts. The alerts provide you with important and specific information that you should then act on to help protect your credit and identity, he said. The sooner you are notified, and take action, the better.
Both Stringer and Joseph strongly recommend that individuals with their Social Security numbers found on the dark web do the following:
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They Can Use Your Ssn To Open A Phone Account In Your Name
It’s easy for criminals to open a phone account in your name if they have your name, address and SSN, Focht said. One of his clients learned that her SSN had been stolen when she received a Verizon Wireless bill. It turned out that someone had opened an account in her name, then purchased several expensive phones, charging them to the account.
“What was particularly irksome in her case was that the accounts were opened using an address the client hadn’t lived at for more than a decade,” Focht said.
Pro tip: Focht said that phone companies usually have fraud departments to deal with stolen services. Immediately let the department know what is going on, and then follow up with a letter. You might need to send a copy of that letter to the credit agencies if the issue shows up on your credit report.
What Does It Mean To Set Up A Fraud Alert
Fraud alerts can be placed on your credit reports for free, and there are two different types:
- An initial fraud alert can be placed if you believe you are, or may become, a victim of fraud or identity theft. The fraud alert lasts for one year. If you want to keep it active on your credit reports, you’ll need to renew it after that time. When you or someone else attempts to open an account in your name or attempts to make changes on an existing account, such as increasing the credit limit, the lender or creditor must take reasonable steps to confirm you are who you say you are, such as through contacting you by phone at a number you provide, before completing the request.
Placing an initial fraud alert also allows you to request a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from the three nationwide credit bureaus, in addition to the one free copy from each credit bureau you’re entitled to under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- An extended fraud alert can be placed if you are a victim of fraud or identity theft. It requires a copy of a valid police or law enforcement agency report or a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Report. An extended fraud alert is similar to an initial fraud alert but lasts for seven years. With an extended fraud alert, a lender or creditor is required to verify your identity in person or by phone at a number you provide before opening new accounts or making changes to existing accounts.
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Stay Alert Monitor Your Accounts Closely
Staying alert and watching for signs of new account activity is important. For example, you may receive a variety of signals that someone is using your PII to receive healthcare services in your name. This could include:
- Bills and collections calls for medical services you didnt receive.
- Unfamiliar collections notices on your credit reports.
- Notices from Medicare or other health insurers that youve reached your plan limit.
- Denial of coverage because of misinformation.
Consider collecting current copies of your medical records and those of your family members from all of your doctors, healthcare providers, and insurers. If any information on your records is incorrect, its important to fix it.
Also, dont throw away any bills or notes from healthcare providers you dont recognize. They could signal and prove that your healthcare benefits are still being used fraudulently.
In addition to monitoring any changes to your medical and insurance accounts, keeping tabs on your financial and credit accounts is important. Identity thieves may have enough sensitive information to use your existing accounts or create new ones in your name.
How Can I Collect Social Security Disability
While data breaches do occur, it should not stop you from applying for items like Social Security Disability Insurance if you are disabled. Our attorneys represent people who are interested in collecting benefits. These are people who truly need assistance, who are suffering mightily.
It should be noted that to qualify for SSDI, a person suffering from a disability has to show the SSA that his or her condition will last longer than 12 months and could result in death. For more information about the SSDI process, you can speak with our attorneys.
Have a safe and happy New Year.
Your Info Can Be Used To Cover Medical Treatment
People who steal your info arent just using it to buy lavish items. They can also use it to receive medical treatment by using your Social Security number and health insurance account numbers.
In most cases, use your same address, phone number everything. Their goal is to get treatment and/or medications, and then they are gone, leaving very little time for them to be found out, says Justin Lavelle, chief communications officer at background checking service BeenVerified.com.
In fact, according to research from Michigan State University, there were nearly 1,800 incidents of medical data breaches with patients information from October 2009 to December 2016.
Hackers can receive treatments, prescriptions and more by using your benefits. In addition to increased expenses for you, this can also put your own health at risk as the thiefs medical information will now be mixed up with yours.
Be sure to thoroughly review your medical bills and insurance statements as these may show signs of identity theft. You can check if the claim description matches the care you received.
If you see a discrepancy, call your health provider to report it.
Also make a habit of regularly checking your credit reports to check for delinquent medical bills on your credit reports.
Applying For A New Number Or Replacement Card
The SSA may assign a new Social Security number to you if you are being harassed, abused, or are in grave danger when using the original number, or if you can prove that someone has stolen your number and is using it. You must provide evidence that the number is being misused, and that the misuse is causing you significant continuing harm.
If you apply for a new Social Security number, you must prove
- your age
- your citizenship or lawful immigration status
- your identity
Getting a new Social Security number probably wont resolve all the problems related to the theft of your identity. Government agencies and some businesses may keep records under your original Social Security number. In addition, because credit reporting companies use Social Security numbers and other personal information to identify a persons credit file, using a new number doesnt guarantee a fresh start. But by being careful with your personal information and monitoring credit reports for fraudulent activity, you can limit the misuse.
The SSA lets you apply for an original Social Security number or a replacement Social Security card for free. The application form and information about the supporting documents you need to apply are available online. The form takes just a few minutes to complete. But that hasnt stopped some websites from claiming that the process is complicated, confusing, and time-consuming, and offering to do it for you for a fee.
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