Millions of consumers received a notification recently from T-Mobile (TMUS) – Get Report that “unauthorized access to some of your personal data has occurred.”
The company confirmed last week that the physical addresses, Social Security information, driver’s license information, and IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) numbers of 100 million people were stolen in a massive data breach.
The leaked information reportedly included sensitive personal data from both current and prospective customers who had given the company their personal information in order to run a credit check. However, T-Mobile states that they have no indication that certain financial information such as payment information, credit or debit card information, account numbers, or account passwords were accessed.
Despite this assertion, identity theft and fraud can follow soon after massive amounts of personal information gets into the hands of criminals. T-Mobile is offering anyone impacted by this security breach various ways to protect themselves including two free years with McAfee’s ID Theft Protection Service. They have set up a page on their site to let you know What You Can Do.
Whether you have been a victim of a security breach or not, there are other ways for consumers to take some precautionary measures to help protect themselves.
Freeze Your Credit
While it may sound intimidating, freezing your credit is relatively simple to do. It is also an effective way of preventing lenders from reviewing your credit report to approve a new line of credit should a crook try to use your information.
In order to make the freeze, you need to contact Equifax (EFX) – Get Report, Experian (EXPGY) , and TransUnion (TRU) – Get Report directly.
These three major credit bureaus require you to provide verification of your identity through your Social Security number, proof of residence, or a copy of a photo ID to approve the freeze.
In some cases, a PIN might be assigned to unfreeze the credit report. Fortunately, freezing your credit report is free, won’t impact your credit score, and can be lifted at any time.
Check Your Credit Report
Although freezing your credit report is a good first step toward protecting your money and identity, it’s important to look over copies of your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus to ensure that no fraudulent activity has already occurred.
Everyone is entitled to three truly free credit reports a year. That means you can get one copy from each of these three reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. I usually suggest getting one report every four months. You can access your credit report online at AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you see anything suspicious or inaccurate contact the credit bureau immediately.
Monitor Your Bank Accounts
Even if your information wasn’t included in the T-Mobile data breach, remaining vigilant about the potential of suspicious activity on your bank accounts is key to avoiding unnecessary credit score damage. If you notice any fraudulent charges that have been made to your account, contact your bank immediately. For more information on what can or cannot impact your credit score, check out my article on What’s Fact and What’s Fiction When It Comes to Your Credit Score.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is the author of “The Joy of $aving: Money Lessons I Learned From My Italian-American Father & 20 Years as a Consumer Reporter.” Jeanette is a regular contributor to TheStreet. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to “The Today Show” and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money saving tips and ways to give back on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: The Joy of $aving Community. Find links to her social media and her book at JeanettePavini.com.