How to tell if data breach letter is real

Posted at 6:46 PM, Dec 15, 2015

More than 20 million people are receiving letters informing them that they are part of the biggest government data breach in history.

Unfortunately, scammers are now jumping aboard this data breach, sending out phony notifications.

So how do you know if yours is real? There are several things to check for before you respond.

Frightening Letter in Mailbox

Sandy Miller opened her mail the other day to find a frightening letter from the Government's Office of Personal Management, or OPM, demanding her attention.

"I received a letter in the mail stating that my Social Security Number and personal information had been hacked through the government," she said.

Miller learned that she's part of a massive data breach involving:

  • Government employees
  • Certain spouses of those employees, who needed to be cleared as well
  • Contractors
  • People who simply applied for a government job

Miller, like so many people, was skeptical at  first, which is wise because there are so many scams out there.

And some requirements of the website had her worried.

"I went online to try to get my free protection, and when it asked me for my Social Security Number, I stopped," she said.

Was it a phishing scam? Or the real deal?

Turns out the letter is real: to get 3 years of free protection you will need to provide your SSN.

Watch for Copycat Scams

But the Better Business Bureau says beware scams trying to take advantage of confusion over this breach.

  • The letter should direct you to a .gov website. Anything you do should be through that website.
  • It should give you a 25 digit pin number to use.
  • The government will not email or call you about this breach. If the letter comes in the form of an email, it is NOT legitimate.

Remember, you don't need to be a government employee: In Miller's case, she worked briefly for a government contractor.

"It went back over 20 years ago, almost 25 years ago when I graduated college," she said. "I had a background check for a job I started right out of school, and that was enough."

So if you worked for or even applied for government work in the past 25 years, do'nt be surprised to receive this letter.

As always, don't waste your money.


Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.

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