Both Dennis Cox, the Southern Vice President for the CFT Council of Retired Members, and Doug Orr, Chair of the CFT Retirement Policy Committee, want impacted members to do whatever they can to protect themselves from a recent data breach that affected both CalSTRS and CalPERS.
In June, officials from both pension funds announced that cyber attackers stole information, including names, Social Security numbers and birth dates.
A third-party vendor for both systems, PBI Research Services, suffered a data breach that impacted around 769,000 CalPERS retirees and about 415,000 of those in CalSTRS. Monthly benefits haven’t been affected.
Officials at CalSTRS and CalPERS sent a letter the week of June 26 to people who were impacted with guidance.
The agencies are offering free credit monitoring for those impacted. People have until October 31 to sign up. Cox, who had just attended the committee meetings for the Council of Retired Members in San Jose, thinks members should take advantage of the offer.
Only about 14% of those affected have signed up so far. Cox says he understands the reluctance of people to go through the hassle of signing up, but he says it’s worth it.
“The problem is that people may have checked with their financial institutions and said, ‘Look, there was a breach of my information. Have you received any undue or suspicious looking requests for funds? ‘No, we haven’t.’ ‘Oh, good. I’m in the clear.’” Cox said “Well, there’s a problem with that. Even if someone checks with all the financial institutions because they have been affected by this, scammers usually will wait for even up to a year or two before they take advantage of the information.”
Orr, a former economics professor at City College of San Francisco and a member of the AFT Local 2121 Retiree Chapter, thinks people affected should sign up for the free credit monitoring service. He also advises doing more.
“For retirees, they’re not likely to be opening new credit cards or taking out new mortgages, so the best thing they can do is to freeze their accounts at the credit agencies because if they freeze their accounts, nobody can open an account in their name no matter how much information they have,” he said. “It’s free to freeze your account. It’s also free to unfreeze it. So, if a year and a half from now, they decide, ‘Oh, I want to buy a new car, I need a loan,’ they can contact the credit agency and say, ‘Unfreeze my account, so I can get this loan approved.’ And then as soon as the loan is approved, they freeze their account again.”
Written by: Emily Wilson