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The news is full of the massive cyber attack on Anthem and the stunning theft of 80 million customer records.  Anthem is one of the nation's largest insurance companies and includes several major Blue Cross and Blue Shield brands.  The information stolen from the insurance giant includes names, birthdays, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, e-mail addresses and employment information, including income data.

“That's a treasure trove of information,” said Tom Gorup, security operations center manager for Rook Security.  It's enough to commit identity theft, or bypass security questions to lock you out of existing accounts.  And the risk isn't short term, like when a credit card number is stolen. "Just because the attacker stole the data today doesn't mean they'll sell it tomorrow," he said. "They could sit on this information for years."

The impact of this cyber attack is far reaching.  According to an NBC News Report, Anthem Breach: What Should I Do Now?, the victims of insurance company Anthem's breach will have to remain vigilant against fraud for the rest of their lives. To see the full NBC report, click here.    

What to do if you're a customer

If you have Anthem insurance, there's not much you can do but sit tight for now.  In the next few weeks, Anthem will inform you by mail if your information was compromised. All impacted Anthem customers will receive some form of identity fraud protection, the company said.

You might want to consider changing your Anthem password, just to be safe. If you are concerned that your Anthem e-mail and password combination could have also been used to login to another service, you should change those passwords as well.

Monitor your existing accounts

“The first thing you want to watch out for is someone using this info to trick a call center into letting them take over or transfer money out of your existing accounts,” said Avivah Litan, an analyst at Gartner Inc.  Watch for any unauthorized activity or transfers on your current financial accounts, including 401k and brokerage accounts.

Sign up for credit alerts and identity theft protection

Anthem has pledged to offer free credit monitoring and identity protection services to all affected customers. These services will keep an eye on your reports for known indicators of identity theft and send you alerts, look for changes of address, and alert you when someone else tries to use your identity. "All impacted members will receive notice via mail which will advise them of the protections being offered to them as well as any next steps," said Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Anthem, Inc.

File your taxes early

It only takes two pieces of information for a crook to snag your tax refund by filing your taxes early and claiming it for themselves, and the data in the breach contained both, said Paige Hanson, Educational Programs Manager for LifeLock, an identity theft monitoring service. File as early as you can to avoid any problems.

Sign up for fraud alerts

A fraud alert cautions lenders and other to take special care to ensure your identity before issuing new credit. It won't necessarily stop a fraudster but it will raise a red flag to take extra steps, including potentially contacting you directly.

Contact each of the three major credit bureaus--Experian, Transunion and Equifax--and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your file. That will stay on your report for 90 days. By then, you should have a credit monitoring service in place, either one provided by Anthem, or another that you sign up for on your own.   For information from the Federal Trade Commission on how to place a fraud alert, click here.

Stay vigilant

No one knows when or where or if the stolen identities will be used so affected consumers will simply have to stay mindful... forever. "Your Social Security number is not going to change," said Gorup. "This is going to stick with you for life." One tip to avoid fallout from bad guys using the stolen personal information is to never use personally identifiable information as answers to your "secret questions" on your online accounts, said Dwayne Melancon, CTO of Tripwire, a security software company.

"Make up your own questions and answers, or use answers that are fictitious but memorable to you to prevent criminals from guessing their way into your online accounts, "said Melancon.

Our Best Advice

Who knew just a few years ago that cyber crime would be a threat to millions of people around the world?  What can we do as individuals to protect our personal information? 

Change your passwords regularly – at least every 6 months.  Forget about the kid’s birthdays and dog’s name.  Make your password unique.  For some ideas on creating a great password that you can actually remember, Google “How to create a unique password.” 

Check your accounts – all of them.  Look for any unusual activity and report it.

Be careful who you give your Social Security number to.  While you can get a new credit card, your Social Security number is yours for life.

We want to support you and welcome your questions about your insurance coverage. 

Dean & Draper is a Trusted Choice insurance agency representing over 200 insurance companies. For over 35 years we have offered a trusted freedom of choice to our clients.  ContactUs.