NEWARK – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today reminded New Jerseyans who believe they were affected by the recently reported cyberattack against Anthem, Inc., or any other recently reported data breach, that they can take basic steps to protect themselves against identity theft.
“Our message is not one of fear, but of confidence for New Jerseyans who may have been affected by identity theft,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. “By taking concrete action and following several basic steps, it is possible to prevent or stop the stress, heartache, and financial loss that result from this crime.”
In 2012, approximately 16.6 million individuals, or seven percent of all U.S. residents age 16 or older, experienced at least one incident of identity theft, according to the U.S. Justice Department, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Financial losses due to personal identity theft in 2012 totaled $24.7 billion -- $10 billion more than the losses attributed to all other property crimes measured in the Bureau’s National Crime Victimization Survey.
Fortunately, however, the Bureau’s findings contain positive information, even for those who have fallen victim to identity theft. It is possible to resolve the financial and credit problems that result from this crime. The majority of victims were even able to resolve these issues in less than one day, once they became aware of the crime and took concrete action.
Other recently reported data breaches affected Home Depot, Kmart, JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank, and other businesses, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2014 Data Breach Report.
Offers of Free Credit Monitoring: Beware of Scams
Several companies affected by recent data breaches have offered free credit monitoring and/or identity theft protection services to affected consumers. Consumers should consider taking advantage of these offers – but should first take the time to verify that any communication about such an offer is genuine.
Scammers have been known to contact consumers by email or phone, while pretending to offer information and help about a data breach. Their motivation is to prey on confusion and worries about the data breach – and fool unsuspecting consumers into downloading computer viruses or giving away their personal information..
The best self-protection is to verify any suspicious email with the purported sender, through a separate medium such as a phone call. If there is any doubt about a message, simply delete it.
Identity Theft Protection for All New Jerseyans:
All New Jerseyans who believe they were exposed to identity theft – either through a data breach or other means – are advised to take the following eight steps for self-protection.
- File a report with your local police department, and bring the police a copy of your FTC Affidavit. Once your police report has been filed, request a copy so it will be available to send to credit reporting agencies and creditors.
- Obtain a copy of your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies.
Contact them at:
Equifax Credit Information Services
Consumer Fraud Division
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
Tell these credit reporting agencies that you suspect you were exposed to identity theft, and ask that all of your accounts be flagged with a fraud alert.
- Keep a close watch on the activity on your credit or debit cards. Many card issuers offer online account access. If you can, check the accounts daily. If you are unable to access this information online, call the numbers on the back of the affected cards.
- Contact all credit card companies, creditors, banks, and any financial institutions with which you do business. Close the affected credit card and bank accounts, and get replacement cards with new account numbers. Change any passwords on the accounts, including PINs. Follow up all telephone contact with a written confirmation.
- Contact the United States Social Security Administration at:
Social Security Administration
Social Security Fraud Hotline
P.O. Box 17768
Baltimore, MD 21235
TTX: (866) 501-2101
- Keep a complete set of records. Keep a log with notes on all telephone conversations with credit reporting bureaus, creditors, or debt collection agencies. Confirm all telephone conversations in writing. Keep copies of all paper or electronic correspondence you send and receive related to the suspected identity theft. Send correspondence by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a record of the time spent and any expenses you incurred, in case it one day becomes possible to claim restitution in a judgment against the identity thief.
- You can also contact nongovernmental nonprofit groups established to provide assistance to victims of identity theft. For example:
Identity Theft Resource Center
The Division of Consumer Affairs enforces the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, New Jersey Computer-Related Offenses Act, and other laws that protect New Jerseyans against identity theft, unlawful invasions of privacy, and other computer-related violations.
The Division’s “Cyber Safe NJ” website, at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/cybersafe, includes important consumer protection information on “The Basics of Cyber
Safety,” “Preventing Identity Theft,” and “Controlling Your Privacy.”
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.