Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions, by money expert Clark Howard.
Should I Be Concerned About the T-Mobile Data Breach?
Rick in Indiana: “I’m a T-Mobile customer. Reports of a data breach earlier this week indicate that personal information was released including IMEI numbers. Should I ask T-Mobile to replace my phone? I believe this breach is a severe security risk that compromises not only the phone but also all of the data on it.”
T-Mobile’s Response to the Data Breach
T-Mobile is still investigating the breach. Here’s what the carrier has posted online:
“Customers trust us with their private information and we safeguard it with the utmost concern. A recent cybersecurity incident put some of that data in harm’s way, and we apologize for that. We take this very seriously, and we strive for transparency in the status of our investigation and what we’re doing to help protect you.”
The types of impacted information include “names, drivers’ licenses, government identification numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, T-Mobile prepaid PINs (which have already been reset to protect you), addresses and phone number(s).”
Clark’s Take on Whether To Be Concerned About the T-Mobile Data Breach
Clark says: There is one measure of protection you can take at this point to safeguard your data.
“The most important thing for you to do is to replace the PIN on your T-Mobile account. That would be a key piece of protection you can put in place,” Clark says.
T-Mobile says it has already reset PINS for all customers but you should double-check your account to make sure. Clark says that if the IMEI numbers of cell phones fall into the hands of criminals, “it could potentially create a risk for some version of phone cloning that would be used to get into your existing financial accounts.”
He adds, “The larger issue with the T-Mobile data breach is that criminals could potentially have your Social Security number and other key pieces of data that would allow a full takeover of your identity. And for that reason, the first thing I would do — if you have not done so already — is put in place a credit freeze with the three major credit bureaus. It would prevent someone from applying for new credit as if they were you.”
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to freeze your credit.
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