Tips and guidance from FEMA on cyberspace and security:
As you know, we rely on cyberspace and information technology to run our daily lives. Unfortunately, as we have seen recently with privacy breaches affecting employees, some of the most critical threats emanate from these online, computerized sources and communications. FEMA Region II would like to remind and refresh your knowledge and cognizance of the importance of protecting personally identifiable information (PII).
We are providing guidance and proactive measures below that you can take to help protect your team and you from identity theft. Furthermore, if you had the unfortunate experience of having your identity stolen, there are additional steps below to assist you.
Request free credit reports at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. It might take a few months for most signs of fraudulent accounts to appear on the credit report, and this option is most useful when the data breach involves information that can be used to open new accounts. Therefore, we recommend that you:
Request a free credit report from each agency with a 4-month interval between requests. In other words, make a request to one agency, wait four months, then submit a request to the next agency, and so on;
Continue requesting free credit reports for a period of 12-24 months. Consumers are entitled by law to obtain one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - for a total of three reports every year. The annual free credit report can be used by individuals, along with the free report provided when placing a fraud alert, to self-monitor for identity theft;
Review your credit reports carefully for accounts that you did not open or for inquiries from creditors that you did not initiate;
Review your personal information for accuracy. If you see anything that you do not recognize or understand, you should immediately call the credit agency at the number on the report;
You may wish to consider placing a fraud alert on your credit file to let creditors know to contact you before opening a new account in your name. Simply call any one of the three credit reporting agencies at the phone numbers listed below:
Don’t get hooked by “Phishing” scams. When internet fraudsters impersonate a business to trick you into giving out your personal information, it is called “Phishing.” Do not reply to email, text, or pop-up messages that ask for your personal or financial information. Don’t click on links. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website for more information on “Phishing” scams: www.ftc.gov/news-events/media-resources/identity-theft-and-data-security/phishing-scams.
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen or have become a victim of identity theft, you should take the following steps in addition to the steps above:
Inquiries from companies you have not contacted or done business with;
Purchases or charges on your accounts you did not make;
New accounts you did not open or changes to existing accounts you did not make;
Bills that do not arrive as expected;
Unexpected credit cards or account statements;
Denials of credit for no apparent reason; and
Calls or letters about purchases you did not make.
In late January, the FTC announced enhancements to their website, www.IdentityTheft.gov. This free, one-stop site provides individuals with a personalized recovery plan for identity theft incidents. The FTC consumer complaint system integrates this website, allowing individuals to rapidly file a complaint with the FTC. The IdentityTheft.gov site includes easy-to-use tools that streamline many of the steps involved with recovering from identity theft, such as, creating the necessary documents to alert police, and contacting credit bureaus and the IRS. In 2015, the FTC received over 490,000 identity theft complaints. Fight back faster and more effectively against identity thieves by visiting www.IdentityTheft.gov. This additional FTC site also helps protect your credit and identity: www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.
Additionally, for any tax related compromises of your personally identifiable information, the IRS has many resources on their website to assist taxpayers. You can contact the IRS at www.irs.gov/Individuals/Identity-Protection. Please understand, IRS does NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information, including any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS does not call taxpayers with threats of lawsuits or arrests. The IRS usually communicates to taxpayers via postal mail.