AG Gansler Offers Tips in Wake of University of Maryland Data Breach
Affected consumers should take advantage of free credit monitoring; thieves could use info to set up new accounts that could be harmful
Marylanders can get ID theft help through Office of the Attorney General
Baltimore, MD (February 20, 2014) - With hundreds of thousands of University of Maryland students, faculty and alumni potentially impacted by a massive security breach, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler today advised all consumers to take some basic steps that could protect their information from being misused, now or in the future. Attorney General Gansler also urged consumers to learn about the different threats and impacts that different types of security breaches pose - and the programs that consumers can utilize to protect themselves.
"This breach is particularly alarming because dates of birth and social security numbers were apparently compromised, which could give thieves the ability to open new accounts that would enable them to take out loans, sign up for new credit cards or other harmful actions," said Attorney General Gansler. "Potential victims should strongly consider taking advantage of the free credit monitoring that the University is offering, routinely examine any accounts that could be illegally accessed by hackers, obtain the free credit reports which they are entitled under federal and state law and consider placing a security freeze with the three credit reporting agencies. My office stands ready to assist Marylanders impacted by this or any security breach."
University officials reported on Wednesday that the records of more than 309,000 individuals enrolled or employed at the College Park and Shady Grove campuses since 1998 were compromised. The information included full names, social security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers, but did not include any financial, academic or health records.
Consumers should be aware that the University of Maryland breach greatly differs from the recent incidents involving Target and Neiman Marcus. The breaches at the retail chains put existing credit and debit accounts at risk, which, while serious, are typically easier to detect and remedy.
The UMD security breach puts consumers at risk for new account fraud, since the hackers have the personal information to open new accounts at any point in the future. This information can be used to take out loans, open new credit accounts and other illegal and potentially damaging actions.
Additionally, new account fraud may be unbeknownst to a victim until large sums of money have been spent, and the debt has gone to collections or a court proceeding. The fraud may also take place long after the initial breach occurred, so affected consumers should be continually vigilant about their accounts.
The University has set up a web site with frequently asked questions where updates will be posted, including information about how to take advantage of the free credit monitoring offer. The web site can be found at www.umd.edu/datasecurity. Consumers with additional questions related to the breach can call 301-405-4440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attorney General Gansler also advises any Marylander concerned they may have been the victim of identity theft - either related to the UMD breach or another incident -- to contact his Identity Theft Unit at IDTheft@oag.state.md.us or by calling 410-576-6491. For more information about preventing your identity from being stolen or what to do if you think you are a victim of ID theft, visit http://www.oag.state.md.us/idtheft/index.htm.
Below are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself and ways to detect if you've been victimized:
Affected by a security breach?
- Place a fraud alert
- Monitor your credit report
- Close any affected accounts:
- Ask for new cards with new numbers
- Place red flags on your bank accounts
- "Freeze" your credit reports
- Call the OAG ID Theft unit - 410-576-6491
How to tell if you're a victim:
- Review your credit report: Under Maryland and federal law, you are entitled to two FREE credit reports from each of the credit bureaus per year.
- Look for:
- New accounts that you didn't open
- Accounts in bad standing
- Excessive credit inquiries
- Call 1-877-322-8228 or go to www.annualcreditreport.com to access your report through the federal law.
- Contact each of the credit bureaus to access your report through Maryland state law:
- Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
- Common signs of Identity Theft include:
- Your bank or credit card statements never arrive in the mail
- You receive acknowledgments of new accounts opened that you do not recognize
- You receive calls from collection agencies demanding payment for accounts you never opened or purchases you never made
- Mysterious charges on your credit card bill
- Accounts appear on your credit report that you did not open
- You are denied credit or offered less favorable credit terms, such as high interest rates
- There are warrants out for a crime committed in your name
How to recover from/prevent ID Theft
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report
- Call one of the three credit bureaus. Federal law requires them to tell the other two that you have placed the fraud alert:
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289
- You will be sent a free credit report, review it for fraudulent activity
- A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be a victim of fraud and to confirm your identity when issuing credit in your name
- "Freeze" your credit report:
- The "freeze" completely blocks the information on your credit report from new creditors. Most businesses won't open credit accounts without first checking your credit history
- Contact each of the three credit bureaus to place the freeze
- A credit freeze is free to ID theft victims with a police report, and Maryland law prohibits the credit bureaus from charging more than $5
Credit monitoring services
- Be sure to read any service contract thoroughly before signing up.
- Many of the services provided by these companies can be performed by you for free
- They can be useful if you do not have time to perform these tasks yourself.