What to Do If You've Been Told Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised

There are cases where companies have exposed their customers' information either through an accident or a security breach. These companies may notify you that your information has been compromised.

If you have been told that information has been compromised but you have no evidence of fraud, you may want to take these simple steps to reduce the chances that you will have a problem.


 Contact the companies that hold your accounts.

Contact the bank or credit card companies for any accounts that have been compromised. You may simply want to change your passwords on any bank or brokerage accounts that are affected and ask the company to monitor your account for fraud. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recommends that credit card accounts be closed.

If you close a checking account, it is important to inform merchants that checks you have written recently may not go through. If you use any form of automatic bill payment or have set up repeat credit charges or debits from your bank account, you may also need to update your account profile information with the relevant companies or service providers.

Remember, too, to update your PayPal account profile accordingly.

 Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus.

In the United States, if the information that was exposed included your Social Security number, contact the three major credit reporting bureaus and put a fraud alert on your report. This alert tells banks and credit companies that they should contact you directly to verify any applications for new accounts because of the higher likelihood for fraud.

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

 Contact agencies that issue identity documents.

If you are told that information from an identity document has been stolen, contact the issuing agency for a replacement. Alert them to the situation so that they can prevent someone else from using your name to get a fake ID.

Identity documents include:
  • Driver's license
  • Passport
  • Employer or student ID
  • Social Security or national ID card
For more information on what to do if documents that prove your identity are in danger of being used to commit fraud, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission offers a booklet with advice.

 Stay alert for problems.

You will have to be even more careful for the next six months to a year. Check your PayPal account, bank and credit card account balances often. Order one of your credit reports every couple months.

Other warning signs that your identity is being used fraudulently include:
  • Unexpected charges on your credit card statement or charges on bills you can't explain
  • Receiving calls from your credit card company about unusual transactions
  • Receiving calls from debt collectors
  • A sudden absence of correspondence, like bills, which may indicate that someone has filed a fake address forwarding request
  • Being turned down for credit or having a check unexpectedly refused by a merchant
  • Questionable information on your credit report, such as addresses you've never lived at or accounts you have never heard of
PayPal members can also take advantage of a special offer for credit report monitoring.