Steps to Take
Facts About Data and Identity Theft
It is nearly impossible for businesses and institutions to provide services these days without collecting personally identifying information. If this information falls into the wrong hands, it could put individuals at risk for identity theft.
Still, not all personal information compromises result in data theft, and not all data thefts end up in the crime of identity theft.
A data compromise occurs when personally identifying information, like your Social Security number or credit card number, has been exposed to the possibility of unauthorized viewing.
Data theft occurs when an unauthorized person views or captures another person's identifying information.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses someone's personally identifying information, without his or her permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
If your personal data may be at risk, here are some recommendations for actions you can take to protect yourself:
- Place a free fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert tells creditors to contact you before they open any new accounts or change your existing accounts and may protect you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name.
Call one of these three major credit bureaus (they share the fraud alert with each other). The alert is done through an automated phone system. You will have to supply your social security number. It takes only a few minutes.
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634-6790
Consumer Fraud Division
Phone: 800-525-6285 or: 404-885-8000
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian's National Consumer Assistance
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013
- Request a copy of your credit report to watch for suspicious activity. Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months.
The easiest way is to go to www.annualcreditreport.com (this service is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission). You will be asked to provide your Social Security Number. Select from one (or all) of the three major credit reporting bureaus. The site may suggest that you purchase various reports for a fee. Look for the button that allows you to obtain the FREE CREDIT REPORT. Within a few moments, you will receive your full credit report, which you can print out or save to review later.
Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Check information like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers, to ensure they are correct. If you find inaccurate information, get it removed. To learn how, visit Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports.
- Be alert for identity thieves who might capitalize on a public incident. MSU will NOT call you to request further personal information about a security breach. However, an identity thief may try to take advantage of this public situation and attempt to defraud you. Do not give out personal information regarding this incident, even if the caller purports to be from MSU. Likewise, private companies may try to contact you and offer to help you for a fee. Even if these are legitimate companies, please use caution when evaluating their information. Do not give out sensitive information over the phone.
- Continue reviewing your credit card statements and personal accounts for any suspicious activity, especially for the first year after you discover the identity theft, to make sure no new fraudulent activity has occurred.
If you have reason to suspect that your personal information is being fraudulently misused:
- Immediately call your local law enforcement agency and file a police report.
- Close the accounts that you know or suspect have been accessed, tampered with or opened fraudulently.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Federal Trade Commission
Montana Department of Justice