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Freezing Credit: Advising Affected Employees After the Anthem Breach

freezing credit anthem breachBARB RAND
HNI Compliance Advisor

The personal information of millions was compromised by the recent privacy attack on insurance carrier Anthem. Anthem has created a website dedicated to providing information about the cyber attack; click here to check out AnthemFacts.com.

Considering Anthem's massive size, it's likely some of your employees could be victims. Anthem is the parent company of Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, AmerigroupCaremoreUnicareHealthlink, and DeCare. Personal information of current and former clients, including names, addresses, social security numbers, and birth dates, was accessed.

In addition, health plan members of some independent Blue Cross Blue Shield plans also may be impacted. AnthemFacts.com lists these independent plans.

Anthem is contacting affected people and is offering identify protection and credit monitoring services to them. To take full advantage of this free offer from Anthem and enroll in these services, visit Anthem's FAQ website on identity protection.

Despite this protection from Anthem, it's likely, though, that your affected employees are confused or nervous about the situation.

If any of your employees have been affected, assistance from their employer to navigate this breach may put them at ease and protect them from trouble down the road. To this end, you might want to consider encouraging your people to consider freezing their credit. According to reports from Anthem, the breach did not include financial information such as credit card numbers, but understanding how freezing credit works is good info to possess in the event of any privacy breach, suspected or confirmed.

The Federal Trade Commission has a website that provides information about credit freezes; click here to visit the FTC's FAQ site on freezes.

Following is a quick guide for employers on the ins and outs of freezing credit:

Why would you want to freeze credit?

Freezing credit will restrict access to your credit report, which will make it more difficult for identity thieves to open a new line of credit in your name. That's because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. Credit that's taken out in your name without your permission could lead to long-term financial troubles.

What happens when credit is frozen?

As mentioned, when credit is frozen, additional lines can't be taken out. Take note: During the freeze, your employees can continue to use their existing lines of credit. Please note also that a security freeze does not stop misuse by a thief of your existing bank account or credit accounts, which is called existing account fraud. You still have to check the monthly statements on your existing accounts for any erroneous charges or debits.

The freeze can be lifted at any time, should your employees be on the market for new credit or a loan. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.

When may freezing credit be a bad idea?

People whose credit reports are accessed often for work or people who regularly launch new accounts with financial institutions may find freezing their credit to be cumbersome and potentially costly. Freezing (and then thawing credit) also comes at a price. Freezing credit costs $3-$10 per person per credit bureau, and thawing your reports for one creditor ranges from free to $10. It's recommended that if you do wish to freeze credit that you freeze credit with all three bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion (details for each bureau follow).

How does freezing credit work with each of the major credit bureaus?

Note that each state may offer a freezing discount for senior citizens.

Click here to discover how to freeze a child's credit report. This information applies to all three credit bureaus. Each bureau first requires a written letter to learn if a minor child has a credit report.

This information was compiled in part via a blog post at clarkhoward.com.

Equifax

Experian

TransUnion

What else would you add to our guide? Please share in comments.

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