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Nationwide Insurance security breach estimated to affect 98,191 Minnesota households

Commerce Commissioner urges consumers to take steps to protect themselves from identity theft

December 14, 2012


For Immediate Release:

SAINT PAUL, MN – As the Nationwide data breach reaches approximately 1.1 million affected consumers across the country including 98,191 Minnesotans, the Minnesota Department of Commerce reminds Minnesotans the need to take the necessary steps to protect themselves from becoming victims of identity theft.

“Security breaches and identity theft can hit anyone in this digital age,” reminded Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman.  “Unfortunately, this crime can have wide-sweeping impacts to a family’s economic health.  It is very important for consumers to monitor their credit and take all necessary steps to protect their identity.”

Earlier this fall, the Nationwide Insurance network was hacked, resulting in the potential release of personal identification information. The initial analysis indicated that the information included the names and some combination of customers’ Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birthdates and possibly other personal information. The breach included information from individuals that had requested insurance quotes online, not only Nationwide and Allied customers.

Thus far, Nationwide reports that there is no evidence that information obtained in the security breach has been misused.  Customers of Nationwide and its subsidiaries are eligible to receive free credit report monitoring and identity theft protection for one year. 

Consumers that believe they have been affected or have questions about how to receive free credit monitoring and identity theft protection can call Nationwide’s toll-free number: 1-800-760-1125.

Here are important steps consumers should take to monitor and protect themselves from identity theft crimes:

  • Before revealing personal information, find out how it will be used. Ask whether it will be shared with other companies. Many businesses will provide you with their "privacy policy."
  • Never give personal information over the phone or email. Most businesses that need bank account information, passwords or credit card numbers already have all the information they need and will not call or email a request for more information.
  • Check your credit report once a year. Credit reports show your credit history, including the number of loan requests and whether it's for credit cards, auto loans or mortgages. Make sure the report is accurate, and write a letter noting any mistakes.
    • There are three major credit bureaus that provide credit reports for a nominal fee, and there may be variations in each report: Equifax, 800-685-1111, Experian, 888-EXPERIAN, and Trans Union, 800-916-8800.
  • Pay attention to billing cycles. Follow up with creditors if bills don't arrive on time.
  • Take your receipts. If a store payment is made by credit card, some receipts list the full card number. Do not dispose of the receipt in a public place.
  • Have new checks delivered to the bank. 
  • Use passwords whenever possible. Avoid using passwords that contain easily available information like your mother's maiden name, your birth date or the last four digits of your Social Security Number. Use a different password for each account. Do not store written passwords in purses or wallets where credit cards are kept.
  • Minimize the amount of personal information you carry. Do not store Social Security cards, passports or birth certificates in purses or wallets.
  • Write down credit card names and numbers and store them in a safe place. It's important to cancel your credit cards immediately if they've been stolen.
  • Guard the mailbox from theft.
  • Tear up junk mail. If you receive pre-screened credit card or mortgage offers in the mail, tear them up if you decide not to accept the offer. In a method called "dumpster diving," thieves scour trash bins for personal information.
  • Reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. To opt out of receiving pre-screened credit card offers, call: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567- 8688).
  • Only use secure Internet sites for e-commerce. Look for a small yellow "padlock" in the toolbar and "https" in the web address.
  • It is important to simply know who you are dealing with. Do not give out personal information over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet unless you have initiated the contact

How to recover your identity:
After identity theft occurs, it is critical to document all conversations and correspondence with the companies and agencies helping to reestablish your personal information. Steps to repair your personal information may vary depending on what crime occurred, but in most cases there are a few basic steps to take:

  1. Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus. Tell them that you're an identity theft victim, and request a "fraud alert" on your file. Ask creditors to call you before approving any new accounts or changing your existing accounts.

  2. Ask the bureaus for a copy of your credit report, which is usually free if the report is inaccurate due to fraud. Check the area that lists "inquiries," and if loan or credit requests appear that you did not make, ask that those inquiries be removed. Order new reports in a few months to be sure that the information was removed, because it can negatively affect your credit score.

  3. Contact the credit card companies for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak with someone in the security or fraud department of each creditor, and also notify them with a letter. Immediately close accounts that have been tampered with and open new accounts with new PINs and passwords.

  4. File a report with your local police or the police in the community where the identity theft took place. Be sure to obtain a copy of the police report in case the bank, credit card company or others need proof of the crime. Even if the police can't find the identity thief, having a copy of the police report will be helpful when dealing with creditors.

More Information

If you believe you are affected by this security breach or have questions or have concerns that you are a victim of identity theft, contact the Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Response Team. 

Consumer Response Team
Minnesota Department of Commerce
651-539-1600
1-800-657-3602 (MN only outside metro area)
consumer.protection@state.mn.us

Nationwide toll-free hotline: 1-800-760-1125