OLYMPIA – Attorney General Rob McKenna today asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to assist Washington veterans whose information was stolen in agency’s recently reported data security breach.
In a letter sent to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson, McKenna asked the agency to provide Washington veterans with the documentation victims need to request a credit report security freeze to protect themselves from identity theft. He also asked for details about how many Washington veterans were among those whose information was potentially compromised.
“While so far there have been no reports that the stolen data has been used for identity theft, Washington veterans should be enabled to take proactive steps to protect themselves from harm, McKenna said.
Washington law permits identity theft victims and individuals whose personal information has been stolen in a data security breach to ‘freeze’ access to their credit report to prevent further harm. The law, however, requires a police report be submitted to the credit reporting agencies before a security freeze can be obtained.
“The Attorney General’s Office is asking Veterans Affairs to provide affected Washington veterans or their families with a copy of the law enforcement agency report regarding this theft,” McKenna said. “With the police report, they will be able to secure their right to a credit freeze.”
A credit freeze can prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer's credit history first, McKenna said. Whereas a security alert might help people know who is accessing their credit history, only a freeze will block access to the credit report.
McKenna intends to submit legislation next session that would amend Washington’s credit freeze law to allow all consumers to request a freeze for prevention purposes.
“Our existing credit freeze law gives no protection to individuals who have been pickpocketed, lured by a telemarketing or e-mail scam, or had their personal information compromised in other ways,” explained McKenna.
“It’s like having a law that says you can’t put a deadbolt on your door until your house has been burglarized,” he said.
“Washington is seventh in the nation per capita for reports of identity theft,” McKenna added. “Our Legislature did the right thing last year when it created the ability for identity theft victims in our state to prevent unauthorized access to their credit reports. Now it’s time to take the next step to help Washington residents shield themselves from financial destruction, false arrests and other identity theft crimes before they occur.”
• Veterans Affairs Hotline: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a Web site (www.firstgov.gov) with more information on this security breach. The agency has also established a toll-free information number, 1-800-FED-INFO (333-4636). The call center is open from 5 a.m.-6 p.m. (PDT) Monday-Saturday.
• Establish a fraud alert: With one phone call, you can place a fraud alert on your three credit reports for 90 days. Call one of the bureaus, listed here, and that bureau will share the information with the other two. All three credit reports will be sent to you free of charge.
An alert places a statement on your credit report. If an imposter attempts to obtain credit in your name, the creditor will check your credit and will encounter a statement that says something to this effect: “I may be a victim of fraud. Call me at my phone number 123-456-7890 before extending credit.”
• Free Credit Reports: Washington consumers can obtain a free credit report every 12 months, regardless of whether they have been identity theft victims. Call 1-877-322-8228 or make a request online at www.annualcreditreport.com. (If you have placed a fraud alert on your credit reports, your reports will be sent to you automatically.)
• Responding to Security Breaches: A Federal Trade Commission fact sheet, "What to Do if Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised," provides steps to take to minimize the potential for identity theft. It is online at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/alerts/infocompalrt.pdf
• If you become an Identity Theft Victim: Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-551-4636 for further assistance. Information is also available online at www.ftc.gov/idtheft and www.atg.wa.gov.
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