Recently, I've received about a dozen phone calls from folks who are concerned about a notice that claims to be from the Office of Personnel Management.
It's good to be suspicious. That means you're being a cautious consumer. We need to question the authenticity of every piece of correspondence, even if it says it's from the federal government. That's the world in which we live.
The letters in question are indeed from Uncle Sam, however. The Office of Personnel Management recently mailed out the last batch of letters to those impacted so it makes sense that many of you are receiving them now.
You might have heard about the massive data breach in which more than 20 million people had their personal information compromised. U.S. government officials suspect that Chinese hackers were able to infiltrate the Office of Personnel Management's databases last year and it wasn't discovered until this year. The crooks supposedly gained access to people's employment histories, fingerprint files and Social Security numbers as well as citizenship information and date and place of birth.
We're talking about personal information on millions of former, current and prospective federal employees as well as members of their families.
While China maintains that it arrested some suspected hackers, that doesn't mean your information no longer is compromised. And that's the reason the letters were sent. The letters inform victims of the data breach and offer means to free identity theft protection for up to three years.
The way to take advantage of the identity theft protection is to sign up for the service, which means following the directions enclosed in the letter.
The letter was sent by U.S. Mail; it wasn't delivered by UPS or Federal Express. It also wasn't emailed. If you are contacted any other way, it's a scam.
You will have to go online and input your Social Security number. That's because the Office of Personnel Management provided only the last four digits to Identity Theft Guard Solutions, the company offering the free protection.
Neither the Office of Personnel Management nor Identity Theft Guard Solutions, also known as ID Experts, will reach out to confirm information. If you get such a call, don't volunteer anything because it's a crook. If you have questions, call the Office of Personnel Management at 866-408-4555.
No one likes to hear that his or her personal information is in the hands of Chinese hackers, but it happened. Now it's up to you to make sure that if that information is used, you know about it right away. The best protection is putting a freeze on your credit report. That way even if someone has your information, they won't be able to open up credit in your name and they won't be able to access your credit history.
Contact Betty Sexton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-0000