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In light of U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) poor handling of data breaches reported earlier this month, Illinois PIRG is handing out identity theft tips to federal employees in Chicago. According to the most recent data, there are 48,745 civilian federal employees in Illinois.
“Credit monitoring services do not prevent identity theft,” said Abe Scarr, Illinois PIRG Director. “Only the security freeze can stop new accounts from being opened in your name.
The number of potentially affected government employees, their neighbors, and friends has risen to 18 million people. Despite an urgent need for reliable information and solutions, the OPM’s offer of one year of credit monitoring service is a weak, short-term remedy because it only alerts victims to potential identity theft after it has occurred. To address the OPM’s incomplete response to the data breaches, Illinois PIRG is handing out more complete identity theft tips to federal employees. Chief among the tips provided by Illinois PIRG is a recommendation for a security freeze. A security freeze prevents a consumer’s credit report from being shared with potential new creditors. Freezes are available to residents of all 50 states.
“To make matters worse, federal employees looking to sign up for the free monitoring service have experienced website crashes and three hour long wait times,” Scarr added, “Get the peace of mind of a security freeze instead,” concluded Scarr.
A security freeze offers peace of mind, although it comes with a modest cost and requires planning, since when you want to apply for credit, you will need to selectively or temporarily unfreeze your credit reports. It can cost $5-15 one-time to place a freeze on each of your three credit reports, plus the same amount to "unfreeze" each report each time you do want to apply for credit. Most states offer free security freezes for identity theft victims or senior citizens.
Illinois PIRG’s Identify Theft Tips are available here.
Illinois PIRG is also calling on Governor Rauner to sign Senate Bill 1833, which strengthens personal information protections in Illinois. SB1833 expands the definition of personal information to include things such as geolocation data and consumer marketing data. It also requires entities that collect and store personal consumer data to take reasonable steps to keep it secure.
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