(WOIO) - Following the announcement of a data breach affecting up to 80 million current and former customers of Anthem, a large health insurance company, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is encouraging consumers to take steps to protect their personal information and watch for signs of identity theft.
"We encourage people affected by this or any other data breach to take common-sense steps to protect themselves," DeWine said. "Even if your information has been compromised, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will be the victim of identity theft, but it is important to monitor your accounts and check your mail. The sooner you detect a problem, the easier it will be to correct."
DeWine offers the following tips for consumers affected by a data breach:
• Check your mail. Open letters you receive and look for notifications that you have been affected by a security breach.
• Monitor your bank accounts. Look for suspicious activity, and if you find any errors, immediately notify your bank, or credit or debit card provider.
• Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies -- Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion -- to place an initial fraud alert, which will stay on your credit report for 90 days. The alert is free of charge and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
• Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze essentially puts a lock on your credit so that most third parties can't access your report. This helps protect you from unauthorized accounts being opened in your name. In Ohio, security freezes are permanent until you lift them. You can be charged a $5 fee per credit reporting agency to place or remove a freeze. Contact each credit reporting agency separately to place a freeze.
• Check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can pull all three at once, or you can stagger pulling your reports throughout the year.
• Beware of scams related to the breach. For example, con artists may pose as a person from the organization that was breached to try to obtain your information. Calls claiming to provide information about the breach may be scams.
Consumers also should look for signs of possible identity theft, which may include:
• Unexpected mail, such as a bill for a credit card you never signed up for or a member agreement for a bank you're not associated with.
• Credit card charges you never made.
• Unexpected collection calls.
• Another person's name showing up in your background check.
• Credit reporting errors or a lower-than-expected credit score.
Victims of identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit by calling 800-282-0515. The unit helps victims correct the effects of identity theft.
More information is available at the Ohio Attorney General's website, or by calling 800-282-0515.