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Consumer tips concerning Anthem Data Breach

Health care provider Anthem has announced a data breach affecting about 80 million current and former customers. Visit the following website to read more details and see if you were affected: http://www.anthemfacts.com/

The Cuyahoga County Security and Research Department and the Ohio Attorney General suggests that citizens take precautions to protect personal information and monitor for indicators of identity theft. Here are a few steps recommended by the Ohio Attorney General:
  • Check your mail. Open letters you receive and look for notifications that you have been affected by a security breach.
  • Monitor your bank accounts. Look for suspicious activity, and if you find any errors, immediately notify your bank, or credit or debit card provider.
  • Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion — to place an initial fraud alert, which will stay on your credit report for 90 days. The alert is free of charge and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
  • Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze essentially puts a lock on your credit so that most third parties can’t access your report. This helps protect you from unauthorized accounts being opened in your name. In Ohio, security freezes are permanent until you lift them. You can be charged a $5 fee per credit reporting agency to place or remove a freeze. Contact each credit reporting agency separately to place a freeze.
  • Check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can pull all three at once, or you can stagger pulling your reports throughout the year.
  • Beware of scams related to the breach. For example, con artists may pose as a person from the organization that was breached to try to obtain your information. Calls claiming to provide information about the breach may be scams.
Consumers also should look for signs of possible identity theft, which may include:
  • Unexpected mail, such as a bill for a credit card you never signed up for or a member agreement for a bank you’re not associated with.
  • Credit card charges you never made.
  • Unexpected collection calls.
  • Another person’s name showing up in your background check.
  • Credit reporting errors or a lower-than-expected credit score.
Victims of identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General's Identity Theft Unit by calling 800-282-0515 or Cuyahoga County Consumer Affairs by calling 216-443-7010. For more information to file a complaint visit Consumer Affairs Website.



Valentines Day Online Sweetheart Scams

The Ohio Attorney General has issued an alert for Ohioians as hundreds of affected Ohioians have reported being targeted so far this holiday season. The Ohio Attorney General and Cuyahoga County Security and Research Department suggest the following:

Attorney General DeWine offers consumers the following tips to protect themselves:
  • Research someone you meet online; don’t rely on what that person tells you. Perform Internet searches and consider getting a background check.
  • Be cautious of individuals who claim it was destiny or fate that brought you together.
  • Talk to friends and family members about online relationships.
  • Don’t send money to someone you meet online, even if you have developed a relationship.
  • Be very skeptical of requests for money sent via wire transfer or prepaid money cards. These are preferred payment methods for scammers.
Consumers who suspect a scam should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or Cuyahoga County Consumer Affairs by calling 216-443-7010. For more information to file a complaint visit Consumer Affairs Website.



Cybersecurity Alert: Is It Time to Change Your Online Passwords?

Every day consumers are on the Internet completing online banking, chatting with friends and family on social media sites, sending/receiving emails, and making purchases so one’s heart can skip a beat when you hear of the latest data breach or in this case, where there was a significant threat to internet security. The “Heartbleed” bug could have potentially made consumer’s usernames and passwords, available to cyber-criminals.

An alert was issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding the “Heartbleed” bug and recommends consumers change passwords after the vulnerability has been fixed and closely monitor email accounts, bank accounts, social media accounts, and other online assets.

Using the online chart found at http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected it will help consumers determine whether they should change a password for a particular site regarding the “Heartbleed” bug.

The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs invites residents to learn about identity theft, cyber scams, and data breaches that put your finances at risk. The following websites will provide additional details and resources to help consumers stay safe while online:
Tips to Help Reduce Risk of Identity Theft 
  • Smartphone/tablet users should always log out of apps (banking, social networking, etc.), clear their browser history, password protect their home screen, update operating software and NEVER share data over public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Use complex passwords, including capital letters, numbers and symbols. Change your passwords at a minimum yearly or whenever a data breach has occurred.
  • Do not click on pop-up ads or links in emails you do not recognize.
  • Read monthly statements on all accounts and bills to ensure all charges are accurate
  • To guard your online transactions, look for the “lock” icon on webpage before you send personal or financial information online.



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Tips to Avoid Identity Theft & Other Scams

The Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs offers some valuable tips that will help consumers avoid identity theft and other scams throughout the year while creating sound financial habits.
  • Smartphone users should always log out of apps (banking, social networking, etc.), clear their browser history, password protect their home screen, update operating software and NEVER share data over public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Know what websites or apps your kids visit, set restrictions on permitting downloads or purchases and talk about online safety.
  • Use a credit card when shopping by phone, television or online, not a debit card, so you can dispute the charge if there are problems within 60 days from receipt of the bill.
  • Do not respond to emails, text messages, mail or phone calls claiming you won a prize, gift card, lottery, grant or other unexpected surprise. It is a scam! The scammers are relying on you to log in with your user name and password or click on the link provided in the unexpected email or text message. Con artists look for you to give out your name, address, account numbers over the phone or press the number to opt out from future calls. Why? To collect your information, sell it or use it to commit fraud.
  • Read monthly statements on accounts and bills to ensure all charges are accurate and no hidden fees appear. Dispute any errors immediately.
  • Get and review your free credit reports once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies at www.annualcreditreport.com or call toll free at 1-877-322-8228.
  • If you received any gift cards, certificates, social or group discount coupons go ahead and set a date for dinner, movie or shopping with plans to use them. Check expiration dates on the discount coupons.
  • Shred documents that contain any personal information.
  • Commit to making a monthly budget, save more, spend less, and pay down debts.



Understanding Ohio’s Security Freeze Law

Ohio’s law requires consumer reporting agencies to offer consumers the opportunity to get a security freeze. Consumers can request a security freeze by writing or contacting all three major consumer reporting agencies using whichever methods they approve.

A security freeze prohibits, with certain specific exceptions, the consumer reporting agency from releasing a consumer’s credit report or any information from it without the express authorization of the consumer. There is a nominal fee of $5 for each placement or temporary lift, and sometimes for removal of a security freeze from each of the consumer reporting agencies.

Consumer reporting agencies are not allowed to charge any fees to Ohio victims of identity theft for placing a security freeze on a credit report. To prove you are a victim, you must also send a valid copy of a police report documenting your identity theft complaint.

To place a security freeze write to:

Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA 30348
Experian Security Freeze
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Security Freeze
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92834





Can Potential Employers Check Credit?
A credit freeze can also prevent insurance companies or employers from obtaining your credit data. That’s why if you are actively seeking new employment or insurance, you may want to think carefully about enacting a credit freeze unless you are currently a victim of identity theft.

Remember With a Freeze In Place
You can NOT do an instant line of credit at stores. If you are currently paying for a credit monitoring program, you may want to consider placing a security freeze instead, which can save you money and provide the protection you want. A security freeze is a great tool to help prevent identity theft but you still need to pay attention to your existing credit or bank accounts. You will still need to check your statements on existing accounts for erroneous charges monthly.

So before you request a security freeze, ask yourself are you considering purchasing a home or car, refinancing your home, or looking to buy furniture or appliances using credit? If you answered yes, you may want to hold off placing a security freeze until you have completed your purchases.