Handling a Data Breach

How to Respond to a Data Breach

Time is of the essence, whether your personal data has been compromised as part of a larger targeted cyberattack, or you are the victim of an individual cybercrime. You’ll need to take immediate action to minimize the impacts. These are steps you should take within specified timeframes after discovering your data has been breached.

Within the first 24-48 Hours:

1. Call your advisor, regardless of where or how the breach occurred, so he/she can watch for any suspicious activity in your accounts and collaborate with you on extra precautions to take in verifying your identity prior to any fund transfers.

2. Call the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 800-269-0271 if you suspect your Social Security number has been compromised. The Office of the Inspector General will take your report and investigate activity using your Social Security number. The Social Security Administration also provides helpful materials, such as the pamphlet Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number.

3. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), either by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (TTY 1-866-653-4261), or by visiting FTC Identity Theft to access the Identity Theft Recovery Steps. This one-stop resource for victims of identity theft will guide you through each step of the recovery process, from reporting the crime to creating a personal recovery plan and putting your plan to action.

4. Visit the IRS website taxpayer guide to identity theft if you’re the victim of tax fraud. You’ll be able to access the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, which provides education on tax-related identity theft, tips to reduce your risk, and steps for victims to take.  Run reputable anti-virus/anti-malware/anti-spyware software to clean your computer.

7. Once you’ve ensured your computer is virus/malware/spyware free, you should change passwords on your accounts. Make each password unique, long, and strong, and use two-factor authentication when available.

Within the First Week:

1. If the breach occurred at a firm with whom you do business, be sure to follow the legitimate directions provided by that firm. If it offers credit protection services, sign-up for the service.

2. Report the crime to your local police, even though the incident may cross multiple jurisdictions. Your local police will file a formal report and may be able to refer you to additional resources and agencies that can help.

3. Report your stolen money and/or identity to one of the three main credit bureaus. Provide the credit bureau with your police report number and ask them to place a fraud alert on your account to prevent additional fraudulent activity. Once the fraud alert is activated, the two other credit bureaus will receive automatic notification and the fraud alert on your credit report will be in place for seven years with all three credit bureaus. (Without your police report number, the alert will only be in place for 90 days.)




4. Put a freeze on your credit report with each of the main credit bureaus to prevent the unauthorized opening of accounts. Executing a freeze with one credit bureau will NOT automatically update the others. You can easily unfreeze your credit report when needed. Contact the credit bureaus using this contact information for freezes.

1-800-685-1111 Equifax Security Freeze Website

1-888-397-3742 Experian Security Freeze Website

1-888-909-8872 TransUnion Security Freeze Website

5. Review all recent account statements for unauthorized activity and report any suspicious transactions to the business where the unauthorized or suspicious activity occurred.

6. Consider what other personal information (e.g., birth date, social security number, PIN numbers, account numbers and passwords) may be at risk and alert the appropriate businesses.

7. Begin collecting and saving evidence such as account statements, canceled checks, receipts, and emails that may be useful if an investigation is warranted regarding the cybercrime.

Within 30 Days and Beyond:

1. Carefully review statements on all accounts as soon as they arrive. Look for unauthorized activity, and report any suspicious transactions to the business where the unauthorized or suspicious activity occurred.

2. Notify your friends, family, business associates, and other relevant parties in your contact list that you were hacked. Tell them to beware of emails that may have been sent to them from your account.

3. Speak with your advisor regarding precautions you’ll jointly take to enhance the identity verification process when you want to execute financial transactions.

4. If you’re a victim of Social Security fraud, click here Social Security Website and create an online Social Security account. This will enable you to access and review your statement online and verify its accuracy.

5. Request a credit report every six months to check for unauthorized activity. It will NOT affect your credit score.

Be diligent for the next year in taking precautions to avoid further security incidents.


To Unfreeze Your Credit

When you place a freeze on your file, you will be provided with a PIN that you will need to use to lift the freeze in the future. Depending on your state’s law, there may also be different fees associated with placing or lifting a freeze. Because a security freeze remains on your file until you remove it, you’ll need to plan ahead and unfreeze your file before you plan to be active in the credit market (e.g., when applying for credit cards, loans, or a new cell phone plan). Otherwise, lenders and other parties will be unable to access your file to verify your identity.

Below is the link to unfreeze your credit:

Experian:         www.experian.com/freeze

TransUnion:     freeze.transunion.com

Equifax:           freeze.equifax.com


Prevent Fraud/Identity Theft for Deceased Family Members

Each year, thieves steal the identities of many deceased Americans. The information below provides a few tips to reduce the risk of having a deceased person’s identity stolen:

  • Send the IRS a copy of the death certificate, this is used to flag the account to reflect that the person is deceased. The death certificate may be sent to the Campus where the decedent would normally file their tax return (for addresses see Where to File Paper Tax Returns). A copy of the death certificate may also be sent with the decedent’s final tax return.
  • Send copies of the death certificate to each credit reporting bureau asking them to put a “deceased alert” on the deceased’s credit report
  • Review the deceased’s credit report for questionable credit card activity