Last year, the Office of Personnel Management, which is the agency that handles the security clearance checks for all government employees and contractors, was the victim of a massive hack. The hackers, who experts believe had connections to the Chinese government, stole information about around 21.5 million people. Although the vast majority of these are government workers or contractors with security clearance, some of the data was about their friends or family members.
The Threat of Identity Theft
Some of the sensitive data taken during the hack included social security numbers, putting these millions of victims at risk of identity theft. The government has taken steps to protect the victims of the hack, starting with awarding ID Experts with a $133 million contract. As part of the contract, ID Experts will provide the victims and their dependent minor children with complimentary comprehensive services for identity theft protection, including credit and identity monitoring, ID theft insurance, and resolution services in the case of any identity theft, for the next three years. Each person is covered for up to $1 million in losses if their identity is stolen.
How to Know if You are Affected
If you had a government background check anytime since the year 2000, then you have a high chance of having had your information stolen during the hack. Victims of the OPM hack should expect to receive notices about the hack and subsequent protection services in the mail soon. The Pentagon is taking the lead in contacting the individuals to reduce the risk of scams by making it easier for individuals to know they are interacting with an actual federal agency. It is important that you ensure the letter you receive is from the government and not an outside scam looking to steal your identity.
Is This Enough?
Some experts believe that the $133 million the government is spending to assist victims is not going to provide enough help, according to Consumer Affairs. The services excel at assisting in the cleanup of the problem, but cannot block it from happening in the first place. This type of identity theft services only kicks in after a new line of credit has been opened or some other event has occurred. A victim still has to experience the stress and hassle of cleaning up after an attack, even though they will have expert help.
This program is an extension of the one first instigated for the four million people who were initially identified as victims of the OPM hack prior to the full extent of the matter being recognized. Although the government is taking the initiative to help the victims in the case of a problem, there has yet to be any evidence that any of the stolen data has been exploited or used for identity theft purposes. This contract is just one part of the modifications that the US government is making due to the OPM attacks. They also are instituting changes to protect the data from similar hacks in the future.