PROSSER, Wash., Dec. 18, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Benton County of Washington ("Benton County"), is providing notice of a recent data privacy event that may have affected the security of certain personal information. The confidentiality, privacy, and security of information is one of Benton County's highest priorities and Benton County takes this matter seriously.
What Happened? Benton County recently became aware of suspicious activity related to a certain Benton email account. Benton County immediately launched an investigation, with the assistance third-party forensic specialists, to determine the nature and scope of the activity. Benton County's investigation determined that there was unauthorized access to the affected email account between November 11, 2019 and December 9, 2019. Benton County began reviewing the contents of the affected email account to determine what, if any, sensitive information was contained within them. On September 14, 2020, Benton County's review determined that the email account contained information related to certain individuals. Since that time, Benton County has been diligently reviewing its records for purposes of notifying those affected individuals.
What Information Was Involved? Benton County determined that the information present in the affected email account varied by individual but may include affected individuals' names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, financial information, health insurance information, and medical history and treatment information.
What We Are Doing. Benton County is individually notifying those whose information was present in the affected email account. As an added precaution, the organization is offering these individuals access to credit monitoring and identity protection services at no cost.
What You Can Do. Benton County encourages individuals to review the information below related to "Steps Individuals Can Take to Help Protect Against Identity Theft and Fraud," which provides detail on how to better protect against possible misuse of information. Affected individuals can find guidance in the letters being sent to them.
For More Information. Individuals who may have questions about the incident, may contact our dedicated call center at 833-971-3276 from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday, excluding major holidays, or visit Benton County's website at https://www.co.benton.wa.us/
STEPS INDIVIDUALS CAN TAKE TO HELP PROTECT AGAINST IDENTITY THEFT AND FRAUD
Benton County encourages individuals to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud, to review account statements, and to monitor credit reports for suspicious activity and to detect error. Under U.S. law adults are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. To order your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call, toll-free, 1-877-322-8228. You may also contact the three major credit bureaus directly to request a free copy of your credit report.
You have the right to place a "security freeze" on your credit report, which will prohibit a consumer reporting agency from releasing information in your credit report without your express authorization. The security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in your name without your consent. However, you should be aware that using a security freeze to take control over who gets access to the personal and financial information in your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, or any other account involving the extension of credit. Pursuant to federal law, you cannot be charged to place or lift a security freeze on your credit report. Should you wish to place a security freeze, please contact the major consumer reporting agencies listed below:
In order to request a security freeze, you will need to provide the following information:
- Your full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.);
- Social Security number;
- Date of birth;
- If you have moved in the past five (5) years, provide the addresses where you have lived over the prior five years;
- Proof of current address, such as a current utility bill or telephone bill;
- A legible photocopy of a government-issued identification card (state driver's license or ID card, military identification, etc.); and
- If you are a victim of identity theft, include a copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft.
As an alternative to a security freeze, you have the right to place an initial or extended "fraud alert" on your file at no cost. An initial fraud alert is a 1-year alert that is placed on a consumer's credit file. Upon seeing a fraud alert display on a consumer's credit file, a business is required to take steps to verify the consumer's identity before extending new credit. If you are a victim of identity theft, you are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which is a fraud alert lasting seven years. Should you wish to place a fraud alert, please contact any one of the agencies listed below:
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
P.O. Box 105069
Atlanta, GA 30348
You can further educate yourself regarding identity theft, fraud alerts, security freezes, and the steps you can take to protect yourself, by contacting the consumer reporting agencies, the Federal Trade Commission, or your state Attorney General.
The Federal Trade Commission can be reached at: 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20580, www.identitytheft.gov, 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The Federal Trade Commission also encourages those who discover that their information has been misused to file a complaint with them. You can obtain further information on how to file such a complaint by way of the contact information listed above. You have the right to file a police report if you ever experience identity theft or fraud. Please note that in order to file a report with law enforcement for identity theft, you will likely need to provide some proof that you have been a victim. Instances of known or suspected identity theft should also be reported to law enforcement and your state Attorney General. This notice has not been delayed by law enforcement.
SOURCE Benton County of Washington