Protect yourself

I’m not trying to kick up an alarmist sandstorm here, but if you’re one of the 6,137 undergrads who were notified that their social security numbers and/or other personal information may have been stolen as part of the heist of an external hard drive from the Office of Student Affairs, it’s probably worth trying to protect yourself. Though Georgetown’s campus-wide e-mail said no credit card information was stolen, your information could be used to take out lines of credit in your name (such as loans).

The first step is to put a 90-day fraud alert out with the 3 major credit bureaus; this will prevent new lines of credit from being taken out in your name without your first confirming them by phone. Call Equifax at 1-800-525-6285 to begin the alert; they’ll contact Experian and TransUnion (the other 2 bureaus) to make it universal.

Second, Visa’s fraud center told me that identity thieves and other bad guys will use your information to pose as you, call in, and find out your credit card info. Call your credit card company to place a password on your account, which is more secure than the typical “mother’s maiden name” question used to verify by default. Credit card companies are already diligent fraud monitors, so they’ll probably call anyway if a strange-looking charge appears on your account.

I don’t know the chances of your info being used to nefarious ends (who’s to say what they really are, anyway?), but there’s no harm in protecting yourself. It should only take 20 minutes or so (based on past experience), and will be a lot less painful than trying to deal with the repercussions should your info actually be used.

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