Taking Back Control
What to do if your online accounts have been hacked, and how to prevent it from happening.
You’ve been hacked. Where do you start repairing the damage? Could you have prevented it from happening? Unfortunately, the answers aren’t simple. We turned to Christie Alderman, Chubb Personal Insurance New Products & Services manager, for some answers.
Q. What can you do if your accounts have been hacked?
A. Get to work now creating a plan because the faster you respond after identity theft, the more you can limit the damage done and reduce the hassle of undoing it. If you don't already, start paying attention to your accounts. Look at them weekly to make sure all charges are legitimate and be sure to order the free credit report that the three major credit reporting bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—are legally obligated to provide to you. Most financial institutions will forgive charges if you can demonstrate that they were fraudulent, but there is usually a time limit when you can ask for this.
Q. How do you start to clean up the problem?
A. Unfortunately, ID fraud is often described as “evergreen,” meaning that although you may close down one account that has been fraudulently taken over, you may see new takeovers or even newly opened fraudulent accounts in the future. So don't be surprised if you find yourself in a bit of a “whack-a-mole” game with identity thieves. While the reporting bureaus will place fraud alerts on your account, they will eventually expire and you may have to renew them. Sound like a lot of work? Help may be closer than you think. If the ID fraud occurred because of a security breach at a company with which you do business, ask if it can provide you with resolution services. Many companies provide resolution service as a helpful service no matter how the breach occurred. Chubb, for instance, offers free ID resolution services to our Homeowner, Auto and Group Personal Excess customers. The service helps with credit agency notifications, police report filings and documentation, and provides fraud monitoring—taking the burden off you. And the FTC has a standard for a “do-it-yourself” method of resolution.
Q. How can you prevent your accounts from being hacked?
A. You can’t. A lot of the sources for ID theft are out of your control. Even if you very carefully choose the companies with which you do business, because of the increased reliance on technology (the laptop an employee accidentally lost or the website that is hacked), even reputable companies are experiencing privacy breaches. But, you can control some potential sources of ID theft and reduce your chances of becoming a victim. Here are some ways:
- Don't call us, we'll call you. If you get phone calls or emails asking for any type of personal information, politely decline. Instead, look up the company or charitable organization's telephone number or website and contact them directly to make sure the inquiry is legitimate.
- Put on a freeze when deploying overseas. Military personnel are often the targets of thieves because their deployment is often publically announced and they cannot closely monitor their credit. Contact the three credit rating agencies to place an alert that prevents credit activity in your absence.
- Separate your identity when separating from your marriage. Divorce can be a contentious time, so take precautions by quickly separating accounts, closing lines of credit, changing passwords and closely monitoring your credit score for any unexpected changes.
- Keep your friends at arm's length ... and your enemies even farther. As sad as it is, a surprising percentage of ID theft comes from people the victim knows—sometimes even his or her family members. Be sure to keep your personal and account information under lock and key, consider a locking mailbox and use a shredder when discarding old financial papers and bills.
- Avoid being too social on social media. When filling out your online profile, avoid providing critical personal info, such as your marital status, your maiden name, your birth date or address. Also, don't accept "friend" invitations from people you don't know—they could be a "bot" designed to access your personal info and your friends' info. Be skeptical of online polls and quizzes, which often collect data to provide to an undisclosed third party.
- Take action when your 2-year-old is offered a low interest rate. Generally, a credit report is not started on a person until they become old enough to need credit. But, fraudsters take advantage of this: using birth announcements to open up fraudulent accounts that can go undetected for years. If you get a credit card solicitation in your child's name, call the credit reporting bureaus to see if a credit report has been opened up in his or her name. If it has, clear up the fraud and ask for a freeze to be put in place until your child is old enough
to need it.
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Click here for more identity management tips and tools from Chubb Personal Insurance.
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