As Department of the Navy employees, most of us have been impacted by one or more major breach of PII in recent years, whether it was a government breach, such as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach in 2015 affecting over 20 million individuals, or a commercial breach, such as the recent Equifax breach affecting over 145 million. Whether you were personally impacted or not, it is imperative that you put safeguards in place to protect your information.
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.
Note: Identity theft protection does not protect you against other types of identity fraud resulting from the compromise of medical insurance, employment, tax, and driver’s license information.
These are just a few of the ways you can take an active role in protecting yourself before and after a major breach of your PII occurs. More detailed information can be found on the privacy page of the DON CIO website at http://www.doncio.navy.mil and on the Federal Trade Commission website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity-online-security. Select “Identity Theft” or search on your topic of interest.