From Moak: Data breach hits home for AG, clarionledger.com, 12/18/2015
A recent data breach which could affect millions of Americans has hit close to home for Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who announced in a news release that he’s a victim, too.
Hood didn’t give specifics, but he noted that becoming a part of this story has caused him to decide to check his credit regularly, and encouraged others to do the same.
“Data breaches and identity theft continue to cause significant harm to consumers, and full-scale identity theft involving the use of just a Social Security number can cost a consumer $5,100 on average,” said Attorney General Hood. “I am a victim of this hack, too, and I intend to check my credit regularly for at least a decade.”
Hood made the remark in a release discussing the massive hack of the federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in which hackers compromised a massive database containing personnel records of more than 4.2 million current or former federal employees, and background check data for nearly five times that many. Some (including members of Congress) have pointed the finger at the Chinese government or others working on its behalf.
In June, OPM announced that hackers had broken into a supposedly-secure database containing information on more than 21.5 million people who had undergone government background checks. The fallout from the breach, which allegedly started in early 2014, eventually cost OPM Director Katherine Archuleta her job and was a huge black eye to an agency responsible for running much of the civil service portion of the U.S. Government. As the scandal unfolded, investigations revealed an ever-increasing number of potential victims.
Included in the hack were fingerprints, financial records and personal information of 5.6 million individuals. If you had a background check conducted on you by the federal government (such as to become a military contractor), you might have been included. OPM should have by now notified those whose data were compromised.
“As a result of the data breach, the OPM is providing identity theft protection and monitoring services to those who were affected and any of their dependent children who were under the age of 18 as of July 1, 2015,” Hood noted in Thursday’s news release. “Services include credit and identity monitoring, identity theft insurance, and identity theft restoration for the next three years through ID Experts, a company that specializes in identity theft protection. The services are to last through 2016 in the personnel files case and through 2018 in the clearance files case.”
Hood urged consumers to verify their status with OPM before responding the offer of free credit monitoring. “The OPM and ID Experts will not contact consumers to confirm any personal information and advises consumers not to provide their personal information in relation to this incident,” he said. “The OPM is only contacting consumers by mail; so if an email from the OPM is received instead, then it is likely fraudulent.”
“We appreciate the OPM for taking action and providing the sufficient tools and services to help consumers who have fallen victim to this scam,” he added. “Since 2005, nearly 5,000 data breaches have compromised more than 815 million records containing sensitive information about consumers, including their financial account information, Social Security numbers or medical information. The numbers continue to escalate in 2015. Consumers are entitled to check their credit annually at no cost, and regular monitoring is one of the most important ways to protect your credit.”
If you believe you might be affected, but haven’t heard from OPM, you can call 800-750-3004 or 866-408-4555 or visit http://www.opm.gov/cybersecurity. Consumers can contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office at 800-281-4418 if they have a problem with the current number provided by the OPM.