Government Breach Hits Millions
June 18, 2015
Up to 21.5 million current and former federal employees may have had their personal information stolen in the Office of Personnel Management breach disclosed last week, according to the American Federation of Government Employees.
The Office of Personnel Management and the Obama administration said the hack affected four million current and retired employeesâ€”but the union's president, J. David Cox, believes the hack involved personal information on all federal employees, all federal retirees, and one million former federal employees. Others briefed on the hack also believe the number of people affected is significantly greater than four million.
According to the union, hackers stole birth dates, pay history, health insurance information, life insurance information, military records, addresses, and Social Security numbers on millions of federal employees from the "Central Personnel Data File.â€ť The stolen Social Security numbers are believed to be unencrypted.
U.S. intelligence officials believe the hack came from China and the information was collected to create a database of American federal employees. The stolen information could be used for blackmail or to create sophisticated phishing attacks containing spyware used to penetrate government networks. According to experts, this breach is one of the most serious government breaches in history.
The OPM will cover 18 months of credit monitoring for all affected current and former employees.
As you may already know, credit monitoring is weak and will not fully protect those affected in the OPM breach. Credit monitoring alerts you aftersomeone opens new credit in your name.
With the amount of information stolen, those affected by this hack should sign up for a credit freeze. A credit freeze locks your credit with a special PIN. Before any credit can be opened in your name, you must unfreeze your file with the PIN by contacting the credit bureaus. This makes it much more difficult for someone to fraudulently obtain credit in your name.
How to Freeze Your Credit:
To do so, you will need to contact all three of the credit bureau agenciesâ€”Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
You will need to freeze your file at all three agencies to be properly protected.
Prices for a credit freeze vary per state, but usually cost about $10 at each bureau. You will need to pay an additional $10 to unfreeze your file when opening a new line of credit. Freezing your credit can cost up to $30 all together, but that is much less expensive and stressful than dealing with a stolen identity.
If you are a proven identity theft victim, the freeze and unfreeze fees are waived in all states.
If you have been affected by the OPM breach or want to protect yourself, we recommend a credit freeze. This will help protect your credit and identity from being used fraudulently.
Edward J. Kohlhepp, CFPÂ®, ChFC, CLU, CPC, MSPA
Edward J. Kohlhepp, Jr., CFPÂ®, MBA