Dealing With Data Breaches

The number of data breaches and identity theft reports continues to rise every year. Scammers are on a mission to steal your personal information so they can commit identity theft. On average, there is a new identity theft victim in the U.S. every two seconds.

Pull Your Credit Report, and Check it Regularly

Consumers have the right to order a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting companies every year. For information about how to obtain your free annual credit report, CLICK HERE.

Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit File

A fraud alert is a flag placed on your credit file. This happens when you tell a credit reporting agency that your data may have been compromised. The alert makes it more difficult for someone to open an account in your name. The Federal Trade Commission provides helpful tips on its website HERE (Trusted Partner Link).

Federal law requires that agency to notify the other credit reporting agencies. They will then place alerts on your reports with them. Placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your report also freezes online access to your social security information with the Social Security Administration (SSA). That means if you don’t already have an account with SSA, you will not be able to open one while the alert is in place. You can still go to your local social security office to create an account in person. This is the only way to create an account while the alert is in place. You will need to bring in proper identification.

There are three types of fraud alerts:

  1. Initial fraud alerts make it harder for an identity thief to open accounts in your name. These alerts last for one year and can be renewed. Anyone requesting your credit file during this year-long window receives an alert that you suspect you are a victim of fraud. A creditor must go through extra steps to verify that you authorized this request. This applies to opening a credit account, increasing a credit limit, or getting a new card. The request should be denied if they are unable to verify that it was your request.
  2. Extended fraud alerts are for confirmed identity theft victims. The alert lasts for seven years. A police report verifying your identity theft status is required before they are placed. Federal law requires creditors to call the consumer before approving a request to open or extend a credit line. Creditors use the phone number provided in the alert.
  3. Active-duty military alerts last for one year. They are available to active military members who want to protect their credit while deployed.

Consider Placing a Security Freeze

A security freeze or credit freeze is something you request from a credit reporting agency to restrict access to your credit report. This makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Most creditors will demand to see your credit report before they approve new credit. Your credit should not be extended if a creditor can’t see your file.

A credit freeze does not prevent all third parties from seeing your report. Existing creditors, debt collectors acting on their behalf, and government agencies in some circumstances still have access to your report. Placing a credit freeze on your account will not affect your credit score. And it will not keep you from getting your free annual credit report or score. Credit reporting agencies may not charge a fee to place or lift a security freeze. This applies to both temporary and permanent freezes. CLICK HERE for information on how to place a security freeze.

Take Advantage of Free Services Offered Because of a Breach

Take advantage of any unconditional and free subscription designed to protect and help you. This may be credit monitoring, fraud resolution, or other services. Before you accept a free subscription offered to you because of a security breach, carefully consider any conditions placed on your acceptance of this subscription. For example, will you be charged after a short free period? Will you only get the free subscription if you give up your right to additional legal compensation?


If you are currently dealing with identity theft, there are important steps you can take right away—including closing your accounts and reporting the identity theft to the police. Visit (Trusted Partner Link) to learn more.