If your personal data was among the 3.5 million records leaked by the Texas Comptroller, you should have received a letter in the mail by now explaining how to set up free 90-day credit monitoring. What that letter didn't explain, however, was the subsequent decision by the comptroller to use her own campaign funds to pay for you to receive an entire year of credit monitoring and identity restoration services.
Here's how to take advantage of the offer:
From now until July 27, just go here and sign up for a free year of monitoring. After you submit your information, you'll be told that "due to the high number of individuals impacted in the breach suffered by the Texas Comptroller's office," expect to wait five to seven business days for a response. You can also sign up by calling 1-877-219-1189.
The credit monitoring service will alert you on activity related to your credit file, such as inquiries, account openings, or late payments. They will also search for your personal information on the internet to make sure it's not being shared on websites or chat rooms.
But just because you sign up for a credit monitoring service, it doesn't mean you are entirely in the clear, according to one identity theft expert.
"Actually only about 20 percent of identity theft is related to credit issues. So credit monitoring is great 20 percent of the time," ID Theft Solutions of America chief Jason Lavender told KUT's Ben Philpott.
For example, an ID thief could use your information to access your health insurance or file fake tax returns. Making matters worse, thieves usually sit on the information for a year or more to wait for the attention to die down.
Comptroller Susan Combs said in an interview with KUT News that she is ultimately responsible for the data leak. She has fired four people, but she has ignored calls to step down. The Texas Civil Rights Project has filed paperwork in Travis County District Court to investigate the Comptroller's office.