BBB advises consumers on Anthem data breach

Tens of millions of Americans could be victims of the latest corporate data breach at Anthem Insurance. Unknown hackers apparently stole personally identifiable information (PII) from current and former Anthem customers, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, and other information that can be used for identity theft.

While Anthem has set up a separate website with information on the breach, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends consumers go to the company’s main website first – anthem.com – and follow links from there. Scammers often take advantage of data breaches and subsequent confusion to set up spoof websites and send phishing emails.

BBB offers the following suggestions for consumers concerned about their PII being stolen:

1. Do not take a “wait and see” approach as you may have done with breaches involving credit card data. You must act quickly. Breaches involving Social Security numbers have the potential to be far more detrimental to victims, and the damage can be difficult to repair.

2. Consider freezing credit reports. A freeze will not impact existing credit cards and financial accounts, but will create a roadblock for thieves seeking to create fraudulent accounts using your personal information.

3. Place a fraud alert on credit reports. At a minimum, if you know your Social Security number has been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit reports. While less effective than a freeze, this will provide an extra layer of protection. Visit bit.ly/BBBfreezeidtheft to learn more about security freezes and fraud alerts.

4. Take advantage of free credit monitoring services. Anthem will be offering breach victims free credit monitoring; sign up. While it is not a preventative measure, the monitoring will alert you to new accounts or inquiries using your Social Security number so that you can act quickly to repair the damage.

5. Regularly check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. Look for unauthorized charges or other signs of fraud. (NOTE: This is the only free credit report option authorized by the Federal Trade Commission.)

6. Be on the lookout for phishing emails. Expect scammers to take advantage of the data breach to send out phishing emails and other messages that appear to be from Anthem, a credit bureau or other legitimate companies. Do not click on links from any email, text or social media post or message about this or any other data breach.

For more information and complete step-by-step guidance on repairing the damage caused by identity theft, visit consumer.ftc.gov.

For businesses that collect customer information:

●    Make sure to protect customers’ data. If a data breach can happen to a major corporation with significant data security measures in place, it can happen to any business.

●    Create a data security plan. Check out BBB’s online guide Data Security – Made Simpler at bbb.org/data-security, for free information on how to create a data security plan.

According to its BBB Business Review, Anthem Inc. also operates as Wellpoint, Inc., Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, and Administar Federal, Inc. However, not all Blue Cross & Blue Shield companies are part of the Anthem network. If you aren’t sure if your insurer is affected by this data breach, call the number on the back of your card or go directly to the insurer’s website.

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