COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today offered tips for consumers following the recent announcement by Yahoo of a data breach affecting some 500 million user accounts.
Yahoo has reported that the information was stolen in late 2014 and may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, “hashed” passwords, and some security questions and answers.
“When there’s news of a data breach, we encourage consumers not to panic but to take steps to help protect themselves,” Attorney General DeWine said. “For example, change your passwords, use a different password for each of your accounts, and watch for signs of possible identity theft, such as unauthorized charges on your account.”
Tips for affected consumers include:
• Change your passwords and your security questions and answers. Change your Yahoo account passwords, and if you used the same password for other accounts, change those account passwords too. (Use a different password for each account.) Also change any security questions and answers you may have provided.
• Use complex passwords. A password should be lengthy and it should contain multiple different characters, such as a variety of numbers, letters, and symbols. Consider taking a sentence you can remember and adding multiple different numbers and symbols throughout. Update your passwords regularly.
• Consider using two-factor verification. Two-factor authentication requires a password and another step to verify your identity. For instance, some sites may require a password and then ask you to answer a question or enter a unique code to access your account. This adds a second line of defense.
• Monitor your bank accounts. Look for suspicious activity. If you find errors, immediately notify your bank or credit provider.
• Check your credit report. Monitoring your credit report can help you identify signs of potential identity theft. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com to access those reports. You can pull all three at once, or you can stagger pulling your reports throughout the year.
• Beware of scams related to the breach. Con artists may pretend to have information about the breach or they may falsely claim to want to help you. Some calls or messages may be scams designed to steal your money or personal information. Don’t give out personal information to those who contact you unexpectedly (even if they say they want to help you) and be wary about clicking on links or downloading attachments in messages.
Signs of possible identity theft may include:
• Unexpected mail about accounts you did not open.
• Credit card charges you never made.
• Unexpected collection calls.
• Another person’s name showing up in your background check or credit report.
• Credit reporting errors or a lower-than-expected credit score.
Victims of identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioProtects.org. Attorney General DeWine created an Identity Theft Unit in 2012 to help victims repair the effects of identity theft, such as by clearing fraudulent debt in a victim’s name.