How to Protect Yourself After the OPM Data Breach

How to Protect Yourself After the OPM Data Breach
About the Author

Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at reidgoldsborough@gmail.com or reidgold.com. 

In June, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced records had been compromised of millions of former and current government employees as well as prospective government employees who underwent security checks - one of the largest breaches of government data in history.   

Data hacked included names, addresses, dates and places of birth, and Social Security numbers - data that can be used to steal your identity. It also might have included security-clearance information, such as facts about family members, college roommates, foreign contacts, and psychological profiles.  

As of early July, no government agency involved, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, had confirmed the identity of the hackers, but media has reported "unnamed government officials" have said that based on limited evidence, the hack originated in China. If this is true, it's not clear whether it was perpetrated by the Chinese government, hackers supported by the Chinese government, or independent hackers looking for financial gain.  

OPM is in the process of notifying those who might have been affected. It's also offering potential victims credit report access, credit-monitoring services, and identity theft insurance for 18 months at no cost to them.  

Currently, OPM is asking people to wait to see whether they're contacted. Though some people already have contacted CSID, the company offering the credit-monitoring services, at (844) 777-2743 and www.csid.com/opm, to ask whether they're eligible. Phone hold times reportedly are long.  

What should you do right now?   

  • Carefully read your monthly credit card, bank, and any other financial statements. Crooks often start with a small theft. Sometimes they continue the same small theft month after month, hoping to fly under the radar. Other times, after the small theft, they go for the big money.
  • Regularly check your credit report to make sure no one else has defaulted on a new credit card obtained in your name, which would indicate identity theft. The law permits you to obtain for free a report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Go to the central site set up by these agencies for this purpose, www.annualcreditreport.com, or call (877) 322-8228. You can order credit reports from all three agencies at once, but it's better to spread this out by ordering a report from each agency every four months.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest information about the data breach. Visit www.opm.gov/cybersecurity.  

For more information about identity theft and how to protect yourself as well as recover from it, visit www.identitytheft.gov and www.consumer.ftc.gov.