If you have a credit report (virtually all of us do), there is a good chance that you are one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
Since identity theft is a “top of mind” concern for virtually everyone, I wanted to pass along some information we have gleaned from the Federal Trade Commission, Cetera Advisors and Equifax itself.
First, it is STRONGLY recommended that you visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to review important consumer information. At the bottom of the page is a button labeled “POTENTIAL IMPACT” where you can determine if you may be at risk.
If you are at risk, Equifax is offering a credit freeze (they call it “Credit Report lock”) for a year with their Trusted ID Premier service, so you won’t have to pay for installing the freeze at Equifax. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
If you are affected and have not yet completely locked down your credit, you should do so immediately (at ALL three bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze will not prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TansUnion – for free – by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you do not recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you do not recognize.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your income taxes early – as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer does. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond promptly to LETTERS from the IRS.
- Be extra vigilant and wary of clicking links via email or social media claiming to have originated from Equifax.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.
Equifax plans to notify people whose credit card information was exposed. If you receive a notice, contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one. Review your transactions regularly to make sure no one misused your card. If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department to get them removed. If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number.
Do not wait… safeguard yourself today, and please share this information with family and friends.
Until next time, don’t wait!