You might have heard by now, but there was a major hacking event over the past week. The PlayStation Network, where thousands of gamers congregate to play online, has been hacked. Yes, the ‘hackactivist’ group (that is, a group that using hacking to avenge perceived wrongs) ‘Anonymous’ hacked into the PlayStation Network, and apparently has stolen information about its users.
While Sony, the company that runs the PlayStation Network, does not believe that credit card data from its customers has been stolen, it is still cautioning its members to take appropriate cautions with their data, as “out of an abundance of caution we are advising you that your credit card number (excluding security code) and expiration date may have been obtained”.
Pretty harrowing stuff, hunh? There’s something about identity theft that gets the blood pumping in this modern age. Luckily, if you feel that you may have been a victim of identity theft, you don’t have to sit back and wait for something to happen before you can act. Here are a few things you can do if you suspect you might be a victim of identity theft:
1. Put a Fraud Alert on Your Credit Reports: A fraud alert is when you alert the three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) that your information may have been stolen, and that creditors should be concerned about requests for new sources of credit made in your name. Having fraud alerts in place will make it harder for any would-be identity thieves to use your information to open new accounts and otherwise use your identity to make a profit. It will last for 90 days, so if you are still afraid that your identity is at risk three months from now, you will need to renew the alert. It’s not a sure thing, as creditors can ignore the presence of an alert and provide an identity thief with credit in your name; but it will limit the number of options that an identity thief has for getting credit in your name. And if they do…
2. Get Copies of Your Credit Reports: Placing a fraud alert will allow you to obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the credit bureaus. If you order your credit reports and notice any fraudulent information, particularly any accounts or charges you don’t recognize, you’ll need to resolve them, and make sure that you check your credit report to make sure that it has been resolved.
3. Close Compromised Accounts: If you find that one or more of your accounts has been hacked (or that you have open accounts that you don’t remember opening), you’ll need to close them. Contact the companies in question, first by phone, but also by mail (using copies, NOT originals, of documents to support your claims), and explain the situation. Depending on the company’s specific policy, you should be able to close the accountant (and reopen it, if you so desire, with new Personal Identification Numbers and passwords) without too much trouble, although you may have to put some more effort into the process.
4. Report the identity theft to the local police and FTC: You need to notify the appropriate authorities to let them know about the identity theft incident. By alerting the local police (or the police in the area where the theft occurred) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you can let them know more about the situation and get the ball rolling on resolving the issue.
Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in a position where you need to deal with identity theft, but if you do, there are ways you can limit the damage done and regain control of your life. Good luck!