Fraud alert advised to those whose personal information was breached

QUICKREAD

Who to call?

To place a fraud alert with the three major credit score bureaus:

Equifax Credit Bureau: Go to http://www.equifax.com or call 1-800-525-6285.

Experian Information Solutions: Go to http://www.experian.com or call 1-888-397-3742.

TransUnion Credit Bureau: Go to http://www.transunion.com or call 1-800-680-7289.

Each is required by law to provide one free credit report a year to anyone who asks.

For more numbers, including credit card fraud hotlines, go to the department’s website at sheriff.mesacounty.us or call its recorded message at 970-244-3959.



If you provided personal information to local law enforcement agencies in recent years, you should take steps to protect yourself from possible fraud, including placing alerts on your credit, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department reminded people Monday.

Though department officials can’t say for sure just what personal information was accessed in the unintentional release of its most sensitive documents over the Internet, it is advising people to protect themselves just in case.

That includes anyone who provided detailed information about themselves to the Sheriff’s Department since 1989, the Fruita Police Department since 2002 and the Palisade Police Department since 2007.

Information from all three agencies was inadvertently posted in April, but not accessed until Oct. 30.

Since then, the more than 200,000 named files were accessed multiple times — in some cases, internationally — but authorities aren’t sure exactly what information was copied, disseminated to others or publicized elsewhere on the Internet.

Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said the law enforcement agency has received “a high volume” of calls from people asking if their personal information was included in the document breach, particularly if it included Social Security numbers.

“It’s mostly Social Security numbers people are concerned about, and rightfully so,” she said. “That combination with your date of birth, your address and phone number and your name is a danger to identity theft. That’s the main concern, fraud or identity theft.”

Social Security numbers are included in the breach, including those who applied for a concealed weapons permit. The numbers also could be part of the record for anyone who’s been arrested or filed a complaint against someone else, she said.

Benjamin said the department plans to hire a couple of temporary workers to respond to callers who have specific questions about the breach. Those temporary workers will check to see what information the department actually has on them so they can gauge their potential exposure.

She said the department has no credit card information on anyone, but a potential thief who has enough personal information could apply for a card using that person’s name.

Exposed people can prevent that from happening, but it will cost them, Benjamin said.

“There are options that the credit bureaus provide, one being a credit lockdown,” she said. “In that case, nobody can open a credit card or can do nothing with your credit unless you provide a password. Should you choose that option, then no one can use your credit to establish a new account.”

That service, however, can cost anywhere from $12 to $20 a month.


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