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Department & Division News

Security Breach at OPM

(This article first appeared in the September-October 2015 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

As the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) faces inquiries, criticism and lawsuits regarding its recent data breaches, the APWU remains dissatisfied with the agency’s response.

We are appalled, not only that the breach occurred, but also at the lack of transparency as to who has been affected, the notification process, the length of time credit monitoring is being offered, and how our sensitive information will be protected in the future.

Before her resignation on July 10, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced two cyber attacks on OPM’s database. The first exposed Social Security numbers, employment data and health insurance data. The second exposed personally identifiable information from Standard Form 86, the questionnaire used by people who apply for national security positions. The scope and risk of the breaches are unprecedented.

If you are unsure if you were affected by the first breach, you can call 844-777-2743 to find out. If you believe you were affected by the breach involving background investigation records, visit www.opm.gov for the latest information.

OPM must be held accountable. Every person affected by the breach must be notified and protected from any potential risk associated with the exposure of their personal information.

Whether you were impacted by the OPM breach or not, it is wise to safeguard your identity.

You can start by monitoring your credit history. By law, everyone has the right to one free credit report per year from each of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These reports can be accessed toll free by calling 877-322-8228 or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You may order each report at a different time, for a total of three reports every year.

When you receive your report, check to see if there are any questionable transactions. If you spot suspicious activity, immediately take steps as directed in the report to have the activities investigated and terminated.

You may also request a security freeze with Equifax (which may require a fee – depending on your age, if you’re a victim, and the state you live in). To obtain a security freeze from Equifax, call1-800-685-1111 (N.Y. residents, call 1-800-349-9960) or submit your request in writing to: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta GA 30348.

A security freeze prevents your credit history from being reported to a third party. However, it requires you to release the freeze if you apply for credit or if you open an account for which a credit check is required.

If you received notification from OPM regarding the breach, please be sure to follow the instructions provided and enroll in the free credit monitoring and fraud protection program. Up to 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

President Dimondstein addressed the legislative conference of the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) in July, just before the 500 attendees visited members of Congress. The group represents more than 4 million retirees and is a member of A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service. I serve on the organization’s National Executive Board.

Forty APWU retirees from across the country participated in the conference and the visit to Capitol Hill. We distributed flyers with information about House Resolution 54, which would restore the USPS standards to the level that existed as of July 1, 2012. The Retirees Department also had a booth in the exhibit area, where attendees participated in APWU’s postcard campaign.