Protecting Yourself From a PII Breach

Published, October 31, 2017

Privacy Tip IconWhether you have been personally impacted by a breach of personally identifiable information (PII) or not, it is still imperative that you put safeguards in place to protect your information, and prevent a breach from occurring.

Here are several proactive steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.
  • Check your credit reports. You can check your credit report at each credit bureau—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—for free once a year. The only government authorized website for free credit reports is AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Create unique user names and vary your passwords across multiple accounts. Use strong passwords.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit report by calling one of the three national credit bureaus. The credit bureau you call must tell the other two. The fraud alert requires a business to verify your identity before it issues credit. Fraud alerts are free. There are three types:

    • An initial fraud alert is for the individual that is concerned about identity theft but has not yet become a victim. It lasts for 90 days.
    • An extended fraud alert is for the individual who is an actual victim of identity theft and lasts for seven years.
    • Active duty military fraud alerts are for those that want to protect their credit while deployed. These last for one year.

  • Place a credit freeze on your credit report. This prevents anyone, including you, from accessing your credit reports to open new accounts. You must contact each of the three credit bureaus. There may be a fee each time you freeze and unfreeze your reports.
  • Identity Theft Protection (i.e., credit monitoring). Identity theft protection services track activity on your credit reports. If you spot an activity that might be the result of identity theft or a mistake, you can take steps to resolve the problem before it grows. Usually, an identity theft protection service will alert you when:

    • A company checks your credit history;
    • A new loan or credit card account is opened in your name;
    • A creditor or debt collector says your payment is late;
    • Public records show that you’ve filed for bankruptcy;
    • There is a legal judgment against you;
    • Your credit limits change; and
    • Your personal information, e.g., your name, address, or phone number, changes.

For additional information on preventing PII breaches, visit the Federal Trade Commission website. Select "Identity Theft" or search on your topic of interest.

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TAGS: Privacy

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