Equifax Data Breach
The Equifax breach is cause for considerable and legitimate concern. The breach affected 143 million Americans and allowed access to very sensitive information such as names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, and account numbers, credit card numbers. Identity theft can take many forms such as opening up credit cards, taking out a loan, filing a fraudulent tax return, or applying for a driver’s license. We all need to be aware of these very real threats but not necessarily fearful of them if we take appropriate precautions to protect ourselves. We also must realize that no matter what we do, hackers will continue to do their best to get our information. This is why we must become and remain vigilant in monitoring our own information.
So what should we do first? You can use this link, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if your information has been exposed.
If your information has been compromised, you should consider freezing your credit, NOT locking it, with all three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Freezing your credit prevents anyone, but you from accessing it and making it impossible to use your information to get a loan or credit. Freezing your credit reports is better than locking them because it is less cumbersome to unfreeze than it is to unlock them. However, you will have to temporarily unfreeze it when you apply for a loan or other form of credit. Next, you should consider signing up for 24/7 credit monitoring such as Credit Karma or Kroll. You should make sure that the system you go with has dual authentication. This is another level of protection. Another step is to monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize. Lastly, consider filing your taxes as early as possible. Tax identity happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund. Also, respond right away to any letters you receive from the IRS.
Whether your information was compromised or not, it is a good idea to pull a credit report from each of the three reporting agencies, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. You are entitled to a free credit report from each once a year. I like the idea of setting up a reminder every four months to get your free report from each of the three bureaus. For example, get the free report from Experian in January, Transunion in May, and Equifax in September. This way you are making full use of the annual free report from each agency and checking your credit report 3 times a year. This is a good habit to get into as part of monitoring your own information.
Some additional steps that you can take to help protect yourself are; don’t give your Social Security number to a medical provider, if you are retired, guard your Medicare card number and monitor your Social Security benefits.
For additional information and things you can do to protect yourself after a data breach, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page at www.identitytheft.gov/databreach.
Here is the link to a good article for retirees and the Equifax breach, http://www.marketwatch.com/story/what-retirees-should-do-in-wake-of-equi....
New information seems to be coming out daily about the breach, but more importantly about how you can handle this in your particular situation. It is important to stay on top of the current information and please don’t hesitate to call us if you have any questions.