Earlier this week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) disclosed that it had suffered two data breaches occurring on August 29th and September 14 in which personal information including Social Security numbers of approximately 480,000 people was made publicly available on the HUD website. No hacking was involved by individuals or nation states. The data breach was done through the negligence of HUD employees who inadvertently posted the information. The information has been taken down and, at the moment, there is no evidence that the information has been used for purposes of identity theft. HUD is investigating the data breach to determine the exact extent of the problem, how it occurred and what to do to prevent such data breaches in the future.
Letters are being sent by HUD to affected individuals and HUD is offering a year of free credit monitoring.
Identity thieves will be sending letters appearing to come from HUD about this data breach asking for personal information. You should not provide such information to anyone who calls you, emails you, text messages you or contacts you by mail. Here is a link to the official HUD website with contact information if you have questions as to your rights in this matter. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/contact
This incident again highlights that you are only as secure as the places that have your personal information with the weakest security. Therefore, as much as possible, you should limit the amount of personal information you provide to any company, institution or government agency as much as possible. However, unfortunately, in many instances, such as with HUD there will be times you need to provide your Social Security and other personal information. Therefore it is important to protect yourself from identity theft as best you can. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to put a credit freeze on your credit report so that even if someone obtains your Social Security number, they will be unable to establish credit in your name. You can learn how to put a credit freeze on your credit reports by going to the Search the Website section of Scamicide in the top of this page on the right hand corner and type in “credit freeze.”