There’s been a huge jump in people impacted by data breaches in the state of Washington, according to a report by our state Attorney General.
“While the number of total breaches went down, the bad news is the number of Washingtonians impacted went up,” says Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
In 2020, there were just 51 reported breaches, compared to 60 in 2019. But the number of Washingtonians impacted nearly doubled to 651,000 from 390,000 last year.
However, the Employment Security Department benefits scam resulting in the theft of $650 million is not included in the numbers.
The report quotes ESD Commissioner Suzi Levine, who blamed the incident on previous data breaches.
“This is happening because bad actors have acquired people’s personal information through other data breaches,” said Commissioner Levine. “Criminals then use this information to fraudulently apply for unemployment benefits in someone else’s name.”
And so, the Attorney General’s office does not call the case a data breach. Rather, it’s classified as fraudulent claims from stolen data.
“Washingtonians have to be careful with their personal information,” says Ferguson.
Ferguson says that the ESD situation shows how one breach can lead to other bad acts.
“Most of us are home a lot more. We’re using our computers even more. We’re shopping, doing all kinds of things online. Be extra careful with that personal information,” says Ferguson.
There was little or nothing consumers could do to protect themselves from the ESD impostor fraud and subsequent theft.
But consumers can protect themselves from other kinds of identity theft. Always remember to freeze your credit. It’s the one thing you can do to protect your finances should a scammer get your personal information. You can also create an account with the IRS so scammers can’t steal your tax return.
You can report identity theft and take steps to recover from it at the Federal Trade Commission’s Website here.