TRTA Update on Identity Breach
Your Personal Information Has Been Leaked, Learn What You Should do to Protect Yourself and Others you Know
Many TRS retired and active members are now receiving a letter explaining that their identity has been exposed on a public web site controlled by the office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Susan Combs. Many people have contacted TRTA asking what this means and what they need to do. Below is a brief recap of what you need to know.
Your Personal Identity has been Leaked to the Public. Take Action to Protect Yourself!
- Information about your identity was transferred from the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) to the Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller);
- Though the Comptroller received this information from TRS on an isolated computer connection and internal server not accessible to the public, the information was somehow moved to a public server in the Comptroller’s office (details on why and how have not yet been disclosed);
- That information remained exposed on the Office of the Comptroller’s public web site for over a year;
- TRTA has inquired as to whether or not the information was actually viewed or downloaded by anyone visiting that public site, but this question has not been answered by the Comptroller’s office;
- The personal information that was leaked on this web site includes the name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number, and Social Security number of almost every member record (active and retired) in the Teacher Retirement System, Employee Retirement System, and Texas Workforce Commission;
- The Comptroller’s office told TRTA that personal bank account numbers were NOT exposed in this data leak;
- The Comptroller notified the media about this issue, and then established an informational web site, www.txsafeguard.org, as well as a toll-free hotline to call for information;
- The toll-free number is reported to only explain whether or not a person’s identity was part of the list that was publicly exposed;
- The Comptroller’s office then started mailing letters to everyone who was exposed in this information leak;
- Approximately 85,000 letters are mailed everyday;
- There are over 3.5 million people who have been exposed in this data leak;
- It will take some time before everyone who has been exposed in this data leak will receive the letter;
- The Comptroller’s office has explained to TRTA that 95 percent, or more, of ALL TRS RECORDS, INCLUDING ACTIVE AND RETIRED MEMEBRS WERE EXPOSED IN THE DATA LEAK;
- TRTA members and all TRS retirees and active employees are urged to visit www.txsafeguard.org for information on how to protect your identity;
- The web site explains that people exposed in this leak may 1.)Sign up for free 90-day fraud monitoring with the three credit bureaus (these bureaus are likely to try and sell you some I.D. Guard service), 2.)Sign up with the discounted I.D. Guard service marketed by Experian, OR CSIdentity;
- TRTA does not endorse either of these products, but we can confirm that they are providing deep discounts for at least one-year of service;
- TRTA Member Benefits Committee has reviewed information about CSIdentity and determined that this program is endorsed by other retired educator and state employee groups around the country and that they have been providing identity protection for a number of years (this is also the company that we asked to provide information to our TRTA State Convention attendees last week in San Antonio after we first heard about the security leak);
- Signing up for either Experian or CSIdentity on a monthly or annual basis should negate the need to call all three credit bureaus for fraud monitoring, BUT the Comptroller’s web site says you may want to do the identity protection program AND the 90-day fraud monitoring program (TRTA is checking into why it is necessary to do both);
- Be advised, signing-up for either of these two companies will lead you to additional web sites selling additional services…consider all the facts and benefits when purchasing any products from either of these two companies beyond the discounted I.D. Protection package;
- These other services may not offer anything more than what you need with the discounted protection plan;
- While the Comptroller’s office will not confirm that any information has been taken from their web site, they have advised TRTA to explain to members that people should respond to this security failure as though someone HAS taken your personal information;
- Many other questions you may have can be answered on the www.txsafeguard.org web site.
TRTA is working to get more information about this situation and how it may impact TRS members. A recent news report said that many identity thieves may wait 18 to 24 months before using identity information they stole. TRS retired and active members MUST remain vigilant with their credit report and with any suspicious phone calls, emails, or credit accounts being opened in their name that they were unaware of.
It has also been reported that scam artists are already at work trying to think of ways to take advantage of this situation. One report says that scammers are calling people purporting to represent state officials from ERS, TRS or the Comptroller’s office. BE ADVISED, NO ONE FROM THE COMPTROLLER’S OFFICE, TRS, ERS, OR ANY OTHER STATE AGENCY IS CALLING TO ASK YOU QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS SITUATION OR ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.
Finally, there are thousands of TRTA members, active school employees, and other signed up to receive the Inside Line; however, there are thousands more who are not! If you think you may know a friend or loved one that has received information about this leak of information from the Office of the Comptroller’s office, you may want to visit with them to ensure they understand the severity of these circumstances.
TRTA wants you to be protected. Hopefully, we will soon learn that no one viewed or downloaded this information off the Comptroller’s public web site, but until that question is answered we need to protect ourselves.
We deeply regret the concern, frustration, anger, and disappointment that many of you have expressed to our TRTA office. We know this is a very troubling situation and there are still MANY questions that are unanswered. We will continue to press for the answers you have asked, but for now please visit www.txsafeguard.org for information on how to protect your identity. You may want to visit our TRTA Facebook page (www.facebook.com search TRTA), as well as we will post news stories and share feedback with how this situation is impacting you and those you know.
Thank you for your membership in the Texas Retired Teachers Association. If you are not a member but want to join, please call our office at 1.800.880.1650 or visit our web site at www.trta.org.