Last week, consumers learned of yet another serious data breach that could compromise their personal information.
On Thursday, T-Mobile announced that a hacker was able to access information held by Experian, the credit bureau that runs credit checks for T-Mobile. An estimated 15 million people could be impacted.
Those affected include consumers who applied for T-Mobile service or financing between September 1, 2013 and September 16, 2015. This means that even if you’re not a current T-Mobile customer, your information may have been compromised if you sent an application to them during that time.
The hacker may have accessed information including consumers’ names, addresses, social security numbers, date of birth, and other identifying information, for example, driver’s license or passport numbers. Scammers can use this information to set up new credit accounts. Experian says that bank and payment card information was not compromised in this breach.
If you think you may have been affected, don’t hesitate to take immediate steps to protect yourself.
Set up a security freeze. Information was leaked in this breach that fraudsters could use to open up new accounts in your name. If you believe your information was leaked, you should set up a security freeze, which blocks lenders from getting your credit information and opening up an account in your name. You may have to pay for a security freeze; costs vary by state. You can get information about applying for a security freeze here. Another, less forceful option is to set up a fraud alert with the credit bureaus so that lenders will have to confirm your identity before they will extend you new credit. Fraud alerts are free and last 90 days, but can be renewed. Click here for more information.
Monitor all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, investments and credit cards. Why? Scammers may have enough information to infiltrate these accounts, so you want to look for irregularities, and if you spot something, report it promptly.
Get an IP PIN from the IRS. If you’re a taxpayer in Washington DC, Florida, or Georgia, you should obtain an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS. This is a PIN that you use to confirm your identity on your tax records to help prevent tax return fraud (for example, when a scammer files a fake return in your name to get your refund). You can get more information about the IP PIN here.
Look out for scammers. Scammers may contact you to try to trick you into sending them money or financial information. Be on the lookout for anyone fishing for personal information. If it sounds suspicious, just hang up! Don’t press any keys or click on any email links. Experian and T-Mobile will NOT contact you and request personal information.
Take advantage of free credit monitoring. Experian is offering free credit monitoring for up to two years to those who may be affected. If you think your information may have been leaked, please sign up here. You can also call Experian at 866-369-0422 or email them at email@example.com.
Warning: Obtaining the free credit monitoring is just one step you should take to protect yourself. Credit monitoring will alert you after someone has opened up an account in your name, but it won’t tell you whether someone is using your existing accounts, like your bank account or credit cards.
Get your free annual credit reports. You can get one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year at annualcreditreport.com. In some states, you may be eligible for additional free reports. Check out our tips for reviewing your reports, and please contact the FTC if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.