Equifax announces major data breach, it’s estimated to impact 143 million consumers.
On September 7th, 2017, one of the largest credit agencies, Equifax, announced an epic cyber-security data breach. They believe that approximately 143 million consumers had their social security numbers, birth-dates, and addresses stolen by hackers. The breach was discovered on July 29th and is believed to have occurred between mid-May and July.
Many of our clients are reaching out asking: “What should I do now?” “How can I protect my credit, assets, and identity?”
While this hack is disturbing and invasive, we’re not so surprised by it.
Unless you live “off-the-grid” (if you’re reading this blog you don’t), your information is EVERYWHERE. Hacking and security breaches happen all the time. Identity theft and fraud are an all too common occurrence and the best that consumers can do is to monitor their finances, credit and taxes, and try to protect personal information. Living in the age of technology and communication comes with many conveniences but it also means that a lot of people and companies have their hands on our personal information. Not only has info leaked from the bureaus before, but as we know the government has their share of hacks and Tax ID Theft.
Moving forward, Equifax has issued an apology and developed a website with information and tools regarding this breach, they are also offering consumers with a free package of credit monitoring and ID protection services.
- Use the website provided by Equifax to see whether your information was impacted by the breach: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ – It’s hard to know how accurate this database is that Equifax set up, take extra measures to protect your credit and assets from fraud.
- You’ll be given the option to setup their TrustedID monitoring product for 1 year free. From what we’ve seen, their monitoring product is tri-bureau but “takes a few days” to link the Experian & Trans Union data. There is no way to know how thorough or reliable this free product will be until the account has been fully activated. This product offers a credit lock feature (much like a security freeze) but only for Equifax, it does not cover the other two bureaus.
- There has been information circling online about the Terms & Conditions of using the TrustedID service. YOU ARE NOT WAIVING YOUR RIGHT TO SUE EQUIFAX FOR THE CYBER HACK BY USING THIS PRODUCT. (But let’s be honest, the plaintiff’s in a class action suit often make penny’s on the dollar, if-that.)
Some important actions consumers should take going forward:
- Review your credit: Many fraud warning signs can be seen through your credit reports and scores before anywhere else.
- Has your score dropped significantly?
- Are there inquires/new credit or collection accounts that you’re not familiar with?
The breach happened through Equifax, but you can still see an impact on the other two reports if identity theft/fraud has occurred. Don’t forget to check those as well!
- If you believe your data has been compromised:
- Fraud Alerts: You have the right to ask the credit reporting agencies to place “fraud alerts” on your credit profiles. This will tell potential and existing creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft and extra precautions should be taken before approving new accounts. Keep in mind, that these alerts can inhibit your ability to open new credit – creditors will have to contact you to verify the request before anything can be processed. These alerts will have to be renewed every 90-days, unless you’ve been a victim of ID theft which entitles you to set up a 7 year fraud alert.
- Security Freeze: This is a tool that prevents fraudulent accounts from being opened in your name. It stops people and companies from having access to your credit report. Keep in mind, it will inhibit your ability to open new accounts. The Trusted ID product will allow you to lock your Equifax and unlock it as well thought the product offered but not the other two bureaus. If you make the decision to place a freeze on the other two bureaus it should not be taken lightly since lifting the freeze requires a written letter to the bureaus and can take time to be lifted. You’ll need to call the bureaus and supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $5 to $10. Keep in mind – each bureau will provide you with a 4-digit PIN that you must have in order to access your credit while the freeze is active, make sure this is kept in a safe but reachable place so you can avoid a giant headache!
This most recent data breach is enormous in size, impacting nearly half of the American population. Breaches are not uncommon and identity theft is prevalent, protect how you use your data and who you share it with.
The best thing you can do right now is pay attention and make sure you review information reporting on credit regularly. Watch your credit reviews/inquiries by third parties. If you see any that do not look familiar and you know you did not apply for credit that would generate the review, call the creditor immediately to get more information and let them know the application is fraudulent. Try to file your taxes early since Tax ID thieves usually hand in false returns as early as possible to insure they receive a payment from the IRS.
If you find you have credit challenges or you need assistance setting up a security freeze or a fraud alert we do offer this service, please feel free to reach out for pricing. We also offer a high-level boutique style credit monitoring program.
**If you already have very poor credit, it’s less likely that thieves will use your identity in order to open fraudulent accounts. Since individuals with bad credit cannot open new accounts, they are not the most desired victim.**
We hope this helps to ease your concerns!
If you believe you’re the victim of identity theft or that your information has been compromised, you’ll thank yourself in the long run for setting up alerts and monitoring your credit. Just make sure you do it before the damage gets out of control.