Employers, do you know what to do if your employees’ confidential data is stolen or lost? There are ways employers can prepare to act quickly and effectively in the event of a data security breach. Delaware employers in particular have a wealth of resources made available by the State. But don’t wait until it’s too late to learn about the necessary steps to take to help your employees in a time of crisis as well as to protect against liability.
Notify Your Employees Immediately
Once you learn that there has been a potential data breach, you should notify every potentially affected employee. Do so immediately. Every minute counts when this confidential information has been obtained by someone with the wrong intentions.
Exactly how you give notice may differ based on the state where your business is located. Delaware employers are guided by a state law, the Delaware Credit and Identity Theft Protection Act. The Act instructs employers to provide written notice to employees that the security of their data may have been breached. The Act also contains sample language for the notice. In essence, the Act explains that employees should consider placing a “security freeze” on their credit report.
A security freeze is a permanent hold on your credit information. It costs nothing to have the security freeze put in place and it takes no more than three days from the time of the request.
If someone wants to use your credit to get a loan, extend a line of credit, or finance a big purchase, the lender will need to contact a credit reporting agency to determine your credit rating. If a freeze is in place, no information will be provided. But you will be alerted and can, in turn, alert the authorities.
And unlike a fraud alert, a security freeze will stay in place until you ask to have it removed permanently or lifted temporarily.
Monitor Your Credit Report
Another important step to take is to request a copy of your credit report and continue to do so periodically and cautiously monitor it for any inaccuracies. By law, Delaware residents are entitled to one free credit per year from each of the three credit agencies. The website that has been created for this purpose is www.annualcreditreport.com. Or you can download the free credit request form (pdf) and mail the completed copy to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
There is no penalty for Delaware residents who request their credit report or who put a security freeze on their credit.
Delaware Employers Should Utilize the Resources Offered by the State
Employers should know that the State of Delaware also offers several helpful resources. It’s a great idea to order some of these now to have on hand in the event that a theft does occur. The new brochure, “Identity Theft Hurts” has answers to many of the questions residents have about credit reports including what is in your credit report and what to do if you find an error in your credit report. The brochure also covers the issue of identity theft and steps you must take if you are a victim of identity theft.
The Office of the State Bank Commissioner also distributes a new brochure from the Federal Trade Commission entitled Stop Think and Click (also available as Stop Think and Click in Spanish), which highlights seven practices for safe computing. The brochure also focuses on a new web site called onguardonline.gov, which provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against internet fraud. The Office of the State Bank Commissioner recently released links to the top five web sites consumers can use to fight identity theft.
The Office is partnering with the Delaware Money School and has scheduled over a dozen meetings in the spring of 2006 across the state on identity theft and free credit reports. Residents can register on line or call the money school for information about how to set up a presentation in your neighborhood or school.