On July 29, 2017, Equifax discovered a criminal cyber-breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other personal information of about 143 million Americans. Because the breached information also includes birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers, affected individuals are at high risk for identity theft.
We have provided some steps below to find out if you or other family members were affected by the breach along with action items that can be done to help protect your identity now and in the future. Please let us know if you are impacted by the Equifax breach so that we may take extra precautions on your accounts. As always, we are here to help.
So, what should you do to determine if the Equifax breach affects you?
- Call 866-447-7559 or go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number to find out whether you are one of those potentially affected by the breach. Repeat for each family member.
- Equifax is offering free enrollment in their TrustedID Premier program for one year if you were affected, which we recommend especially if you haven’t signed up for any credit monitoring service in the past.
- If your data was breached, you should be vigilant about any potential unauthorized credit activity by reviewing all bank and credit card charges and immediately reporting any suspicious transactions.
- We also recommend placing a free “fraud alert” on all three credit agencies, which will prevent granting of new credit absent direct contact with you. A more extreme step would be a “credit freeze” which prevents new creditors from accessing your credit report. Specific instructions on how to do each are included below.
- Consider placing a free security freeze on your ChexSystems report, which is used by many banks when opening new accounts. Go to www.chexsystems.com or call 800-428-9623 to help prevent a fraudulent bank account being opened in your name.
How can you best stay on top of your credit in the future?
- Monitor your CreditKarma accounts at least weekly for any signs of fraudulent activity. This is a good habit to be in, irrespective of the recent security breach at Equifax. If you haven’t already signed up for your free CreditKarma account, you can do so here: www.creditkarma.com
- Monitor your credit card and bank transactions at least weekly. If your accounts are all linked in the Wealth Management System, you can monitor transactions in that single location. Notify your credit card companies or bank regarding any suspicious transactions.
- Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request your credit reports annually from each of the three credit bureaus. You can set a reminder in your calendar to obtain one report every four months (for example, TransUnion on January 15, Experian on May 15, Equifax on September 15), and set the reminders to repeat annually. Upload your credit reports to the Vault for safekeeping.
- Visit www.chexsystems.com to request your ChexSystems Consumer Disclosure Report annually. Set a reminder in your calendar to repeat each year. The report can be requested online, but unfortunately the only way to receive the report is via snail mail.
What are the steps to take to place a fraud alert or freeze with the credit bureaus?
- Fraud Alert – You can set up a 90 day initial fraud alert that requires lenders to take additional steps in order to verify your identity before extending credit. Doing so at one of the three agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) will initiate the fraud alert at all three. This can be done online at one of the links below, or by phone. Putting a fraud alert on your credit also entitles you to a free credit report, even if you have ordered one from that particular agency in the past 12 months.
- Credit Freeze – You can also set up what’s called a “credit freeze.” This next step up from the fraud alert in terms of protection doesn’t allow lenders to access your credit reports unless you lift the freeze (which can be done temporarily based on number of days, or lifted going forward) by entering a PIN number for validation. This would need to be done with each credit bureau and typically costs $10 to set up and any time you need to lift the freeze (if you are a victim of identity fraud, there is usually no cost). Here are the links to each bureau: