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  • Writer's pictureColumbus Wealth Management

Another Data Leak - What to do if your data was stolen from AT&T or other companies

Updated: Apr 19

AT&T Logo on phone

With yet another data leak announced by AT&T this month, what steps should you take to protect your credit, and your assets? Here are some recommendations that we think make good sense:


Put Things on Ice!

  • Consider freezing your credit. This is now free at all three bureaus and can easily be unfrozen if you need to apply for new credit. Freezing your credit profile at all three bureaus significantly reduces the risk that an unauthorized person can establish new credit in your name. Here are links to each of the three bureaus where you can complete this action:

  • In addition to credit freezes at the three bureaus above, you can go a step further by considering the following:

    • Bank Security Freeze – you can place a freeze through ChexSystems to help prevent thieves from opening bank accounts in your name.

    • Utilities Security Freeze – you can place a freeze through NCTUE to help prevent thieves from establishing phone, electricity, water, and other utility accounts in your name.

    • Employment Data Freeze – You can place freezes at the below companies to prevent identity thieves from using your identity for employment, which could subject you to a possible IRS audit for unreported wages:

    • Tax ID Theft – Identity thieves can file a tax return on your behalf and block you from filing your taxes on time, and also potentially steal your tax refund. You can apply for an IRS Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN).


*Be sure to keep track of the online access to these accounts, and any PINs generated as a result of the freezes in a safe place so you can easily unfreeze your file when needed. And, your accountant will need the IRS IP PIN to file your returns!


Monitor for Changes!

  • Consider signing up for an identity monitoring service. A quick Google search will bring up lots of results, just be sure to read the reviews and compare pricing and features of each. Here are a few features we think are important:

    • Coverage for lawyers, experts and personal expenses incurred to help restore your identity if stolen.

    • Coverage for stolen funds

    • Monitoring of your identity (name, DOB, address, and Social Security Number), with alerts

    • Credit monitoring at all three bureaus, with a full credit report (at least annually) and regular credit score updates.

    • Dark Web monitoring – alerts you if your data is found on nefarious websites.

    • ID verification monitoring – this is often used when you need to authenticate yourself online. A third-party service will ask you questions (like what street you lived on when you were 14) to make sure you are who you say you are. Services that monitor this activity can send you alerts each time someone answers these questions in your name.

    • Data breach notifications (like the one announced by AT&T)

    • Home title monitoring

    • USPS Address change verification

    • There are a LOT of extras available on some plans. Review these and select the ones applicable to your situation.

  • Once you sign up, your work is not done! Be sure to keep your profile updated, sign up for email and text alerts, and regularly log on to review new activity.


Additional Tips

  • Social media – don’t post sensitive information, or anything that could be used to impersonate you (full birthdate, address, etc.). Review your privacy settings (Facebook and Instagram both have tools for this inside your account) and use a strong password with two-factor authentication.

  • Monitor your financial accounts closely. At Columbus Wealth Management, we monitor Charles Schwab accounts under our management for our clients, but you should monitor your credit card and bank transactions closely as well. You can use a budgeting tool like the ones found in this WSJ article to make this part easier.

  • Monitor your credit score. If you have or plan to sign up for an identity monitoring service described above, this is much easier. At a minimum, use a free tool (often available through your bank or credit card company) to keep an eye on your credit, including these metrics:

    • Credit Utilization – This measures the total of all your account balances relative to the limits on your accounts. High balances as a percentage of your available credit can harm your score. Do the balances reported seem accurate?

    • Inquiries – This shows a list of companies that have recently accessed your credit profile after an application for credit was received. Lots of hard inquiries can negatively impact your score. Do you recognize all these as legitimate?

    • Number of Accounts – A total list of your credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgages, and other consumer debt should appear here. Perform a scan to see if anything unfamiliar is listed.

    • Age of Accounts – Your credit score generally benefits from having mature accounts on your record. Lots of new accounts can lower your credit score (especially if you aren’t the one who opened them!)

    • Missed Payments – Review this for any missed payments. This could indicate someone opened an account in your name and stopped paying (or never paid). Obviously, missed payments are very bad for your credit score. 

    • Derogatory Marks – Similar to missed payments. Review for any inaccuracies.

  • Download and review your full 3-bureau credit report at least once per year. This can reveal information not found in the credit score update you receive weekly or monthly, especially if the tool you use only monitors one bureau. You can download a free copy of your credit report at Review the report closely and work with the affected credit bureau(s) directly to resolve any inaccuracies (or utilize your identity monitoring service).

  • Lastly, refer to the cybersecurity guidelines in our Q3 2023 newsletter. Staying safe online and with your technology can help reduce unintentional exposure of your personal information!

If you are a current client of ours, please do not hesitate to reach out to us to discuss this information further. If you are not a client but would like help with topics such as these, please read more about us on our FAQ Page and book an intro meeting if you would like to explore becoming a client!



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