Optus Data Breach: How to Protect Against Credit Fraud | optus
While Optus announced on Monday that it had commissioned Deloitte to conduct an independent external review of the company’s massive data breach, customers were still grappling with how best to protect themselves against identity fraud.
The telephone company announced last week that it would offer a 12-month subscription to Equifax Protect credit monitoring to all affected customers, who could expect to receive direct communications from Optus “over the next few days. on how to start their 12 month subscription.
A spokesperson for Optus told Guardian Australia that “current and former customers whose identification number(s) have been disclosed, in addition to other personal information such as name, telephone number, date of birth and e-mail, will have the possibility of taking out a 12-month subscription to Equifax Protect free of charge”.
“Equifax Protect is a credit monitoring and identity protection service that can help reduce the risk of identity theft. Equifax is taking every step to meet the scale and support Optus customers need, under tight deadlines,” a spokesperson said.
However, many customers have yet to receive correspondence from the telco about the offer more than a week after it was made.
Others pointed out that the credit monitoring company itself was the subject of a data breach in 2017.
What can I do to initiate credit monitoring?
Ryan O’Kell, head of cybersecurity for Waterstons Advisory Services, said Optus customers can contact the three major credit bureaus directly – Equifax, illion and Experian – to request a free copy of their consumer credit report every 90 days.
The Australian Information Commissioner’s Office has recommended that those concerned about identity fraud apply to the three credit reporting agencies.
The difference between the free reporting services and the Equifax Protect subscription, offered by Optus, is the level of protection. The latter includes dark web monitoring and identity theft insurance of up to $15,000 per year, in addition to monthly credit reports.
O’Kell said a number of banks have been made aware of data stolen from Optus, so they are monitoring those customers as well.
Taylor Blackburn, personal finance specialist at Finder, said people can also check their credit score for free on Finder or ClearScore.
“You can get your score, it gives you an update every time it changes,” Blackburn said. “You can consult your credit report [and] you can see Current Accounts, Credit Applications, Current Credit Providers, Defaults, Credit Breaches, Bankruptcy Actions, Legal Actions, Commercial Credit Applications.
She said there were a number of free sites that offered real-time monitoring, so customers didn’t necessarily have to request an official credit report every three months.
What is a credit ban?
Scott Pape, better known as Barefoot Investor, said he believes Optus customers should consider implementing a credit ban to protect themselves.
A credit ban prevents creditors from accessing your credit report as part of a credit check, which prevents someone else from being able to fraudulently take out credit in your name.
In an article for the Herald Sun, Pape likened credit monitoring to a security camera and a credit ban to a “big lock on your door that keeps the thief out of your house.”
Pape’s suggestion for implementing the ban was to use an app from a division of Commonwealth Bank, Credit Savvy.
He said Optus customers simply need to download the app, check the details, tap “protect” in the bottom navigation, and finally tap “Request Ban.”
You can also apply for a credit ban from the three main credit monitoring agencies listed above. The ban will last for 21 days, but you can ask for the ban period to be extended. Extension is free and there is no limit to the number of times a blackout period can be extended.
Blackburn said he thinks Optus customers should consider the credit ban “especially if you see signs of identity theft.”
Blackburn said that at the first sign of unusual activity, customers should contact the relevant organization and request that their consumer credit information be banned.
“This blackout period flags you and your identity so that if credit checks are carried out against you – so let’s say someone goes to Vodafone wants a new phone, they use your identity – which will happen is that when that credit check is done, it’ll ‘I’ll be flagged as potentially fraudulent,’ Blackburn said.
“And the organization is not likely to give you that credit, they are more likely to report it to the police.”