Broker Check

The Equifax Data Breach: Protect Yourself With These 6 Simple Steps

October 03, 2017

The Equifax Data Breach: Protect Yourself With These 6 Simple Steps

On Sept. 7, 2017, the credit reporting company Equifax revealed a massive security breach had exposed the personal information of 143 million Americans. 

What does it mean if your personal information was impacted?

It means the hackers may have obtained your birthday, your Social Security number, your address, your driver license number and your credit card numbers. This is a serious concern, as it may give crooks enough information to apply for a credit card or loans in your name.

How can I check?

To learn if your information was impacted, visit equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Am I Impacted? tab. You will need to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Once submitted, you will receive a message indicating if you were affected by the breach.

What has Equifax done to address this breach?

On Sept. 28, 2017, to help protect consumers who may have been affected, Equifax stated it will offer a free lifetime service that will let customers lock and unlock their files. This proposed service will be ready by Jan. 31, 2018. This service is far superior to their initial response, which consisted of a breach-detection tool and free credit monitoring service for a year.

In the meantime, follow these six simple steps to protect your personal information.

Monitor your credit reports on a frequent basis

You can get one free credit report per year from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. To request a copy, go to annualcreditreport.com. You should also routinely review your credit card and bank account statements for any unusual activity. You can also sign up for email or text alerts offered by your bank or credit card issuer so notice of anything suspicious can quickly reach you.

Consider placing a fraud alert on your files

A fraud alert warns creditors you may be an identity-theft victim and they should verify anyone seeking credit in your name is actually you.

Change the password on your main email account

A weak password on your primary email account can make it much easier for someone to access your account. Consider changing your password every few months to help prevent this from happening.

Consider filing your taxes early

Cybercriminals are redoubling their efforts to gather personal data to file bogus tax returns and steal refunds. File your taxes as soon as possible, before a scammer can.

Consider placing a credit freeze on your credit 

Many experts are recommending going beyond signing up for account monitoring services and placing a security freeze on your credit lines. Freezing your credit makes it harder for someone to open an account in your name because it will deny lenders access to your credit report. A freeze must be done with each bureau individually, and will come with a fee, depending on what state you live in. Keep in mind a credit freeze will not expire until you choose to remove it.

Be on the lookout for scams

If you receive a call or emails from someone claiming to be with Equifax, do not provide any information. The call or email may be a phishing attack aimed at gathering personal information for fraudulent purposes. If you suspect a phishing attack, call Equifax directly using the number on the company’s official website – not a number provided by the caller or in an email. Legitimate companies will not ask for your personal information via email.    

As more and more business is conducted online data breaches are becoming increasingly common. Preventing fraud and identity theft play an important part in securing your financial future. Being proactive and staying on the lookout for identity theft is your best protection.

Citations:
1 - wired.com/story/how-to-protect-yourself-from-that-massive-equifax-breach

2 - washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/09/08/after-data-breach-equifax-asks-consumers-for-social-security-numbers-to-see-if-theyve-been-affected
3 - cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2017/09/devastating_data_breach_at_equ.html