If you’ve kept up with the news, you know that major data breaches seem to happen every few months, or at least a few times per year. Remember the huge Equifax data breach of 2017? That one released the sensitive personal details of over 143 million Americans, putting many people and their finances in jeopardy as a result.
The latest data breach you should know about involves Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest medical testing firms. This breach is said to have affected up to 11.9 million patients who worked with the company, although medical information wasn’t the target of the breach. Instead, hackers got their hands on important personal information that can be harnessed to steal identities and money from unsuspecting people — information like Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and financial data.
Use Quest Diagnostics? Here’s What to Do Next
First off, you should take precautions to secure your relationship with Quest Diagnostics if you have one. If you log into their website to pay bills or request appointments, for example, you should consider changing your username and your login information. Create a password no one would suspect and store it somewhere no one else will ever find it.
Second, keep a close eye on any credit or debit card accounts you’ve used to pay bills directly to Quest Diagnostics. Since financial data was released to hackers, there’s a good chance your credit or debit card number could also be at risk.
If you haven’t used Quest Diagnostics for medical testing, it’s unlikely you’ll face any consequences from this breach. But since the American healthcare system is so complex — and since you may not know which companies your doctor or healthcare team used for testing — you may want to take a few precautions either way.
There are some general steps you can take to protect yourself from data breaches and hackers. Here are some steps to take right away — hopefully even before your personal data is stolen or abused.
Monitor Your Accounts
The first thing you should do is keep a close eye on all your bank statements and credit card statements. This is the best way to catch fraudulent purchases before they become a problem — and to protect yourself from becoming liable for them.
Keep in mind that federal law limits liability for unauthorized credit card purchases to just $50, but that the best credit cards available today have zero fraud liability policies. However, debit card protections aren’t as secure, meaning you could wind up liable for fraudulent debit card purchases if you fail to find and report the fraud within 60 days. Hackers could even use your debit card to get into your bank account and drain all your money out.
Sign Up for Credit Monitoring
There are many credit monitoring services that promise to keep a close eye on your credit report and any new accounts opened in your name —and this service may be more affordable than you think. For example, credit reporting agency Experian offers credit and fraud monitoring for just $19.99 per month.
Experian credit monitoring and other companies offer services such as credit score monitoring, identity theft monitoring, dark web monitoring, fraud resolution, and even identity theft insurance. If you’re worried about the financial implications of a big data breach, signing up for credit and identity monitoring can make a lot of sense.
Check Your Credit Reports
If a fraudster has opened an account in your name, you need to find out about it as soon as you can. The best — and fastest — way to accomplish this goal is by checking your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Fortunately, you can check all three reports online and for free once per year using the website AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure to get a copy of each of your reports then scan them over to ensure you recognize every account opened in your name.
If you do happen to find an account you don’t recognize or an error on your credit report, there’s a formal process you can utilize to dispute it. First, you’ll need to gather the following information:
- Your contact information, including your name, address, and telephone number
- Report confirmation number, if there is one
- A full report of each mistake, such as the account number for any account you may be disputing
- An explanation of why the information is incorrect
- A copy of the portion of your credit report that contains the disputed items and highlights them
Once you have the information in question at hand, you can contact the credit bureau with the false data using the websites and phone numbers below:
Freeze Your Credit Reports
When it comes to protecting your identity and finances, there’s one fairly “permanent” way to make sure nobody can ever impersonate you to open an account in your name. By freezing your credit reports, you take permanent steps to block your identity against new accounts (although you can temporarily unfreeze your report in the future when you need to).
Freezing your credit report will not affect your credit score and, as of 2018, you can freeze each of your reports for free. To set up a credit report freeze with each of the credit reporting agencies, you can contact them with the following details:
The Bottom Line
The Quest Diagnostics data breach may be the latest risk you’ll face when it comes to your identity, but it won’t be the last. That’s why it’s always wise to look for ways to protect your personal details before they are stolen — and not after.
When it comes to identity theft, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.
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