Not to be outdone by big tech, FEMA announces major data breach
posted Sunday Mar 24, 2019 by Scott Ertz
Everyone who has ever had to deal with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the wake of a disaster always feels a little like they've been screwed over. Those feelings are going to be eclipsed by how they feel now that the organization has added a new disaster to their experience. That'd because FEMA announced they lost data on 2.5 million people. Those affected are people who have had to use the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program. Essentially, these are people who have been in a situation where they have either lost their homes or been unable to return to their homes because of damage.
All victims of this disaster had their addresses released, while 1.8 million of the 2.5 million also had their bank account information revealed by the government. While having your address released is not great, it is a major life event to have the government assist in identity theft. A loss of bank information is not a small matter - it requires replacing nearly every piece of financial data you have, from bank account numbers to checks, debit and credit cards, and more. Then, everything that touches those accounts has to be updated, like your car payments, mortgage or rent, cable, power, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
According to Lizzie Litzow, the press secretary for FEMA, the problem came about when the agency "provided more information than was necessary" to a contractor. The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General said that, while the data leak could potentially put people at risk of identity theft, there was no evidence that the information had been used for any nefarious purposes. FEMA is working with the contractor to remove the inappropriate information from its system, but that doesn't guarantee protection for those affected. If you are one of those affected, it is worth contacting your bank to get their input on next steps.