Many consumers across the country are victimized by identity theft every year, and some may not know of the benefits of credit monitoring when it comes to keeping their finances safe.
According to a report in the Anchorage Daily News, however, several thousand residents of Alaska are acutely aware of just how much help they can receive from credit monitoring when their identity is potentially breached.
The paper said that more than 77,000 public employees and retirees became at risk earlier this year when a state contractor lost their personal data. Afterwards, more than 25,000 of those current and former state, municipal and school employees accepted the credit monitoring services the firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, offered.
"We've certainly had a number of folks who have called and been very upset, but once we've explained the nature of the breach and the nature of the settlement with PricewaterhouseCoopers, they seem very comforted," Pat Shier, director of the Division of Retirement and Benefits, told the paper.
The company first noticed it had lost the data back in January, and the response was quick – with 7,100 opting to get a credit monitoring service so that they could help keep their identities safe. Upon the company's setting up a toll-free hotline, they quickly received another 4,500 calls, the paper said. The protection offered by the company will last two years.
So far, the paper said, there have been no known uses of the employees' personal information, but one representative of the state's Employees' Association said that stolen data doesn't often surface right away. He added that what transpires over the next year will be the true indicator of exactly what happened to the lost data.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, an auditing and financial consulting firm, got the information on the current and former employees because Alaska was embroiled in a lawsuit against Mercer, an actuarial firm, which it said knowingly provided the state with false data. The state eventually settled the suit for $500 million.
Consumers should be aware that any time their personal data is lost, it can create innumerable headaches if they don't take the proper steps to insulate themselves from identity theft. They should always check their statements and balances to see if anything unexpected has come up, and enroll in a credit monitoring service, which will alert them if someone tries to open an account using their personal data.