TDCI Urges Consumers to Protect Themselves from Identity Theft
NASHVILLE – Two cyber attacks this year at Anthem and Premera Blue Cross health benefits companies have potentially exposed millions of Americans – including thousands of Tennessee residents – to identity theft and fraud by cyber criminals.
Identity theft is a serious crime that can ruin your finances, your credit history and your reputation. Once identity thieves steal your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on credit cards, open new utility accounts or get medical treatment on your health insurance.
In January, health benefits company Anthem disclosed that the personal information of more than 80 million people had been exposed during a security breach, including the information of more than 773,000 Tennessee residents. In March, Premera Blue Cross officials said that the information of 11 million U.S. consumers was at risk, including the information of more than 16,000 Tennessee insurance consumers. Law enforcement agencies are currently conducting investigations into both cyber breaches.
Both companies said that consumers’ personal information including names, dates of birth, email addresses, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers have been exposed because of the attacks.
Tennessee customers who may have been affected by the Anthem breach or the Premera Blue Cross breach can apply for free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. Details about the Anthem program are available here; details about Premera Blue Cross’ program are available here.
Regulators in the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) Consumer Affairs and Insurance divisions want consumers to stay alert and learn the ways they can better protect themselves from possible identity theft.
“In a world where cyber attacks are becoming more commonplace, Tennesseans should take every available measure to protect themselves and their finances,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “We urge Tennessee consumers to change their passwords, check their credit reports and monitor all accounts that contain sensitive personal information.”
Here’s a quick checklist of ways you can help protect yourself from identity theft:
- Order your credit report. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act mandates that each of the major credit bureaus supply consumers with a free copy of their credit report each year. Get your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Know how to spot phishing. Phishing is a technique used by identity thieves to get your sensitive information by pretending to be a site you trust. Phishing schemes are successful because you believe you’re just signing into your bank or credit card account, when it’s really a ploy to get your important information. When logging into these accounts, make sure that you are not being asked for any information that you usually wouldn’t be required to provide to log in.
- Don’t reuse passwords. As tempting as it may be to reuse passwords, it’s a really good practice to use a different password for every account you access online. By keeping different passwords for different accounts, someone will not be able to access your checking, brokerage and email accounts if they discover one of your passwords.
- Don’t put private information on public computers. If you’re away from home, make sure not to save private information on a computer used by the public.
- Unfortunately, sometimes identity theft occurs. Once you discover you are the victim of identity theft, you should immediately notify credit bureaus, creditors, and law enforcement about the identity theft. In dealing with authorities and financial institutions, keep a log of all conversations, including dates, times, names, and phone numbers. Confirm conversations in writing, send correspondence by certified mail and keep copies of all letters and documents.