Victim of data breach says diligence can minimize credit damage

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2018

SALISBURY — Last year, Gail Poulton of Salisbury was the victim of a data breach that resulted in six months of a hacker attempting to open a credit-card account in her name, apply for a bank loan and report her own credit card as stolen.

Her identity was compromised after buying eyeglasses at The hacker had access to her credit card information, birthdate and Social Security number.

“They will find out everything they need to know,” Poulton said.

Poulton said she was fortunate not to get into economic trouble, but for those months it was “terribly stressful.”

“I never lost money,” she said. “I stayed ahead of them.”

She put a fraud alert on her credit reports, but the hackers were able to request new cards  from stores like Belk, Walmart and Home Depot to be sent to a Mississippi address and claiming a previous card was stolen.

She said one time she was paying for a meal and her card was declined. The bank said her card was reported stolen and a new card was being sent to the hackers.

Now down to one credit card from three and closing her Belk account, Poulton advises others to understand how to freeze their credit and set up a verbal password. She also has set up text and email alerts for when she purchases anything.

“You need to be the person that protects yourself,” Poulton said.

The N.C. Department of Justice advises people who are affected by a data breach to consider freezing their credit with credit reporting services.

For North Carolinians, security freezes can be completed online for free but require some time. To do so, contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Those agencies will require your full name, address, date of birth and Social Security number.

Security freezes can also be done by phone or mail. For victims of identity theft who filed a police report, their spouses or people over age 62, the service is free. Otherwise, it costs as much as $3 every time a consumer sets up a security freeze.

Some credit bureaus don’t charge for a security freeze.

According to the Department of Justice, “chip” credit cards have reduced overall credit card fraud, but new account fraud, in which someone opens an account using your name and information, is on the rise.

That was Poulton’s experience.

Security freezes can protect against new account fraud.

Poulton said despite the stress, she’s glad her trouble wasn’t worse. She said she feels she has a social responsibility to share her story.

“I want people to learn from my experience,” Poulton said.