Identity thieves can do a lot of damage with the treasure trove of sensitive information stolen in the Anthem data breach.
The stolen data included the names, addresses, Social Security numbers (SSNs), birth dates, and email and employment information for 80 million current and former customers and Anthem employees. A stolen SSN alone can leave a consumer vulnerable to identity theft for life.
How Anthem breach victims are at risk
Identity thieves can use the stolen data to:
• File and steal tax refunds. Tax identity theft cases are on the rise, up 135 percent from 2013 to 2014, and data breaches are a big reason why.
• Open new credit cards. Armed with a SSN, identity thieves can easily open new credit card accounts, especially online.
• Apply and secure a loan. It’s easy for thieves to take out lines of credit, like a payday loan or mortgage, using your good name.
• Apply for a job. SSNs are hot commodities for undocumented workers or people looking to get rid of a troubled past.
• Pursue medical treatment. Stolen information can be used to obtain treatment, buy drugs or submit false Medicare claims.
How victims can protect themselves
Victims should take steps to:
1. Place a fraud alert on their credit file. An alert placed with one of the three major credit bureaus signals to potential creditors that you could be a victim of identity theft. Initial fraud alerts last for 90 days and require potential creditors to confirm the legitimacy of your identity before granting credit. Extended fraud alerts last for seven years.
2. Review credit reports for any unusual activity. Visit annualcreditreport.com, the government-mandated source for free annual credit reports. Investigate suspicious activity and monitor it until it’s resolved. Also, look for signs of fraud in your medical files, on your Social Security statement, in insurance claims, and in public records.
3. Consider placing a security freeze on their credit report. This may be necessary if you're experiencing fraud as a result of the data breach. A freeze locks access to your credit, so no one will be able to open a new account in your name.
If you suspect you're a victim of identity theft or wish to proactively manage your identity, check with your insurance company, financial institution, or employee benefits provider. Many companies offer LifeStages® Identity Management Services from CyberScout for low or no cost. To learn more, visit CyberScout.com or call 1-888-682-5911.