UPS security breachUnited Parcel Service (UPS) customers might want to check their bank statements after the shipment and logistics company announced that 51 of its U.S. stores located throughout 24 states were breached by malware. UPS said the computer virus was not identified by current antivirus software. UPS customers who used a credit or debit card at one of these 51 locations may have had their information exposed. This potentially exposed information includes names, credit card numbers as well as postal and email addresses. The company said the malware went unnoticed from January 20th to August 11th and it became aware of the breach on July 31 via a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security. UPS was not the only retailer alerted by this bulletin. If you shopped at a UPS store during that time period, be aware!

Am I at risk from this UPS security breach?

The 24 states with affected stores include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington. UPS has a list of each individual location on its website, so you can be absolutely sure that you did or did not visit that location.

What is UPS doing to fix the situation?

After receiving the bulletin alerting it to the issue, UPS hired a security firm which was able to locate the virus and remove it from all affected systems. As of August 11, UPS says, the threat is no longer active. The company also noted that no fraudulent activity has been detected so far as a result of the breach.

How can I protect myself?

Approximately 100,000 transactions were exposed to the UPS security breach. Even if you weren’t one of the customers whose information was potentially exposed by this breach, it is important to take steps to protect yourself and your identity. Although the steps detailed below can’t guarantee that you won’t fall victim to identity theft, they can help make you a little less vulnerable to the crime.

1. Sign up for identity theft protection: To help its customers out, UPS is offering free identity theft protection and credit card monitoring assistance from AllClear ID. Coverage is free for 12 months starting August 20, 2014 to any customer who was affected. You can submit a receipt or a credit card statement proving you shopped at an affected store to get coverage.

Even though UPS may be taking steps to try to alleviate the situation for its customers, the identity theft protection service it’s providing may not be the best service for you. Some of the top-rated identity theft protection services offer the most comprehensive identity theft protection service. These services not only monitor the activity on all three of your credit reports, but also watch for the use of your personal information on the Internet black market and public records to verify it isn’t being used, traded or sold by identity thieves. You will be alerted in the event that your information is added or changed on your reports or if any of your information is detected on public records or the Internet black market. Read our identity theft protection services reviews to see which service is best for you.

2. Monitor your bank statements: It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your bank statements in case of accidental charges. If you believe your information may have been exposed or stolen, it is especially important to carefully monitor your banking activity. The sooner you catch any fraudulent activity, the easier it will be to put a stop to it before significant damage can take place. It isn’t just big charges you have to look out for, either. After the Target data breach, criminals tested whether hacked cards were still in use by placing a $9.84 charge on the card. This is a relatively small sum, and the hope was that it would go unnoticed. So the lesson to take to heart here is to double-check everything. Don’t just assume that odd $5 charge is a latte you forgot about!

3. Watch for phishing emails: Because email addresses were also exposed during this breach, it’s important to stay vigilant with your email account as well. Be wary of suspicious looking emails from strangers as well as family and friends. You can also protect yourself from phishing attacks by installing an Internet security software, many of which offer antiphishing protection for your web browser and email clients. It is also a good idea for the future to create an alternate email from the one designated for personal/business use that you can give out when making online transactions.

4. Shred junk mail: You might not realize it, but identity thieves are notorious dumpster divers to gather more information about their targets. Having your mailing address exposed makes you a potential target, so you should think twice about just tossing out mail that reveals identifying information, such as a pre-approved credit card offer. Purchasing a shredder to destroy these items before they go out to the curb can help keep you safe. Remember to look for a shredder that cross-shreds, ensuring documents are totally destroyed and cannot be put back together by identity thieves.

This breach is yet another reminder of how important it is to tread carefully when it comes to your identity. Taking these steps won’t entirely prevent you from falling victim to a data breach, but they can certainly help ensure it won’t be the end of your world if it should happen. To learn more about protecting your identity online and off, you can read past blog posts in our identity theft section.