WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING TO PROTECT YOURSELF
One of the largest data breaches in history occurred when EQUIFAX recently disclosed that their computers were hacked, potentially impacting nearly half of the U.S. population.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
EQUIFAX is one of three credit reporting Companies, the other two are EXPERIAN and TRANSUNION. These companies monitor and report on consumer financial transactions and therefore have compiled a lot of personal information on all of us. The hackers gained access to Names, Birth Dates, Addresses and Social Security Numbers. As you would imagine, with this information they can do damage to your credit, create negative financial situations, access and steal from your accounts, open new credit cards and loans all in your name and without your knowledge. Hackers hold on to your information or sell it and it can show up months or years from now.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Check with EQUIFAX to see if you were affected. EQUIFAX has an online tool that allows you to look yourself up by your last name and last six digits of your social security number. The website is www.equifaxsecutity2017.com
The tool indicates whether or not you may have been impacted. Even if you weren’t impacted this time, you must monitor your accounts on a regular basis. This includes credit card accounts, bank accounts and brokerage accounts. You can also request that these financial companies send you an alert if any new or questionable activity occurs on your accounts.
If you were impacted, you should contact all three credit reporting companies to put a credit freeze on your accounts. This will prevent anyone else from seeing your accounts or opening new credit in your name. Just remember that if you need a loan or apply for a new credit card, you will have to un-freeze your account at all 3 agencies. There may be fees to freeze and un-freeze your accounts each time and for each agency.
If you were impacted:
- You should change your account numbers on your bank accounts and brokerage accounts.
- Place a fraud alert on your accounts, which means businesses must verify you are the person asking for credit or requiring money to be wired from one of your accounts.
- Consider signing up for a fraud protection monitoring program. EQUIFAX is offering its TrustedID Premier program free for one year. There are other services, such as LifeLock that charges a monthly fee for monitoring.
To freeze your accounts, you must call all 3 agencies at:
- EQUIFAX 800 349-9960 or online at equifax.com
- EXPERIAN 888 397-3742 or online at experian.com
- TRANSUNION 888 909-8872 or online at transunion.com
To place a 90 day fraud alert, you can contact the 3 agencies at the following phone numbers. The fraud alert expires and can be renewed every 90 days.
- EQUIFAX: 888 766-0008 or online at equifax.com
- EXPERIAN: 888 397-3742 or online at experian.com
- TRANSUNION: 800 680-7289 or online at transunion.com
You should also be aware of phone scams. Do not provide personal information to anyone calling you.
Finally, note that in the event that your social security number and other data may have been compromised, you should consider filing your income tax returns as early as possible so as to prevent hackers from filing a fraudulent return.
It is a pain to deal with all of this but the real pain would come if your information is compromised and stolen. Remember, better safe than sorry.