In the wake of the massive data breach at Target in late 2014, much of our advice to victims focused on steps you can take to limit fraudsters from stealing from your existing accounts. Recently, there have been a number of high-profile attacks where the information stolen wasn’t payment card numbers, but rather social security numbers (SSNs) and other sensitive data. This week, we learned of a breach that involved the theft of bank account numbers and other personal information. The latter type of breach puts folks at risk for damaging consequences in addition to fraud on existing accounts, including new account fraud, tax fraud, and very highly targeted solicitations from scammers. While these damaging consequences are rare, they are potentially far more damaging than, for example, fraudulent charges to your credit cards. If you are one of the unlucky who have had your bank account information stolen, here are some tips:
1. Close the compromised account ASAP
Yes, it’s a huge hassle. But worth it because no amount of warnings and alerts can provide quite the peace of mind that cutting off a potential crooks access to your account will. Your bank should help you do this, as it’s also in their best interests that you not fall victim to fraudsters. For those of you looking to move to another bank, we have a step-by-step guide to moving your money here.
2. Check your credit reports using the only truly free credit report site annualcreditreport.com
You should be regularly checking your accounts anyway, but if you’re not, now is the time. Look for accounts you don’t recognize or anything that seems fishy.
You are entitled to a free annual report from each of the big three credit reporting agencies (sometimes called credit bureaus): Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
In some states victims of ID theft can get additional free reports throughout the year. Check your state’s attorney general’s website for information. (For example, in California, the AG has this helpful information:
If you discover fraud on your account, see here for how to fix it and to get additional help to recover from ID theft.
If you discover errors but not fraud, see page 30 of this report .
3. Watch out for scammers
You are far more vulnerable to phishing and other scammy come ons now that crooks have access to your personal data. For what to watch out for, see here.
4. Take steps to prevent tax fraud
No one wants someone else claiming their tax refund. Unfortunately, it happens a lot. You can help prevent tax fraud by following this advice from the IRS.
5. Take additional steps to protect yourself.
A security freeze is a great defense against someone opening a new account in your name. An extended fraud alert is a little less effective, but may be easier if you are currently shopping for credit. You can find great information about both on the FTC’s website. If you are still worried, please see our additional suggestions to folks whose information has been compromised here.