A few days into learning that Equifax has been hacked the dust has settled and the shock of the largest security breach in modern financial history has become a part of our everyday lives – what do you do now?
Hacks like this are occurring more and more often and unfortunately, becoming a part of everyday life in the 21st century.
Recent hacks include Yahoo, the IRS, the DNC, Snapchat, Netflix, US Dept. of Vet Affairs, Home Depot, T-Mobile/Experian, UPS, Twitter, Evernote, AOL, AMG, Citi, Zappos, Red Cross, Quest Diagnostics, Banner Health, British Airways, Linkedin, the list goes on and on and on.
You can view an interactive infographic of the worlds largest data breaches here.
You can no longer depend on others to protect your private and personal financial information, at this point we must all assume that criminals have access to all of our names, addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, drivers license numbers, etc…, pretty much everything.
Knowing all of this, it’s up to each of us to be diligent in protecting our own identities and the identities of our families.
So how do you protect yourself and your credit?
It’s time to get proactive about protecting your identity and your credit.
Follow the following steps to protect yourself from the current Equifax data breach as well as inevitable future hacks.
1. Find Out If You’re Affected
Equifax has created a website dedicated to information about the hack. You can view if your information was impacted by the hack via the following link:
Click “Check Potential Impact” and enter your information on the following page.
If your information was compromised you will be given the following message;
Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.
You will then be given instructions on enrolling in TrustedID Premier for 1 year at no charge with no credit card required.
NOTE: You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
TrustedID Premier includes:
3-Bureau Credit File Monitoring
– Credit file monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit files.
Equifax Credit Report Lock
– Allows you to prevent access to your Equifax credit report by third parties, with certain exceptions.
Social Security Number Scanning
– Searches suspicious web sites for your Social Security number.
Equifax Credit Report
– A copy of your Equifax Credit Report.
$1MM Identity Theft Insurance
– Up to $1 million in ID theft insurance. Helps pay for certain out-of-pocket expenses in the event you are a victim of identity theft.
NOTE: There was some confusion whether signing up for the credit monitoring service meant that consumers signed away their right to sue Equifax via an arbitration clause.
On 9/11/2017, Equifax posted an update on their website, which included the following: “We’ve added an FAQ to our website to confirm that enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not waive any rights to take legal action.
2. File a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert is an instrument given to you by the 3 credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, which notifies lenders and creditors who pull your report to take additional steps to verify your identification before extending credit.
A fraud alert only allows creditors to gain access to your credit reports if they verify your identity.
For example, if someone applies for an auto loan in your name and you have a fraud alert active on your credit file, the business must call you to verify whether you are the person applying for the loan before accessing your credit reports.
If you do not verify that you are the person applying for credit or simply do not pick up the phone, the business will not be given access to your credit report and loan will not be made.
According to the FCRA, consumers may initiate a Fraud Alert with any of the 3 credit bureaus for free at any time.
You do not need to contact each of the 3 bureaus to initiate the fraud alert, by law, once one credit bureau is notified of your request for a fraud alert, they will contact the remaining 2 credit bureaus to initiate a fraud alert with them as well.
There are 3 different Fraud Alerts
1. Initial Fraud Alert
This fraud alert is available for everyone at any time and lasts for a period of 90 days.
2. Extended Fraud Alert
This fraud alert is only available to actual victims of Identity theft or fraud. You will have to forward a copy of an Identity Theft Report to initiate this alert. This fraud alert entitles you to 2 free credit reports from each of the credit bureaus within the first 2 months of initiating the alert as well as another free report within the next 12 months. This fraud alert lasts for a period of 90 days.
3. Active Duty Military Alert
This fraud alert is available to service members on active duty and lasts for a peiod of 1 year.
We suggest that everyone activate an initial fraud alert on their credit to add an extra layer of protection from identity theft.
You may initiate the fraud alert online, by mail or by phone via the following info;
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
Please Note that you can request that a Fraud Alert be removed at any time.
3. Review Your Credit Reports
Get your free credit reports from all 3 credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Once you have the reports, review them and look for anything out of the ordinary like suspicious addresses, phone numbers, and account information.
If you notice any suspicious activity on your credit reports make sure that you contact the credit bureaus, the creditor reporting the information, the FTC, the CFPB, and if necessary your local law enforcement.
If you need help dealing with identity theft on your credit reports contact CreditFirm.Net at 800-750-1416 for help.
4. File Your Taxes Early
The Equifax data breach gave hackers access to your personal data including your name, address, phone numbers, date of birth, social, and other financial information which, in the wrong hands, can be used by criminals to file your taxes and steal your refund. Don’t wait till the last minute, file your taxes as early as possible to safeguard your refund.
5. Be Weary of Scam Phone Calls
Now that your social security number may be compromised and in the wrong hands, be weary of calls from collection agencies or even people claiming to be from the IRS demanding payment on a debt.
They may threaten you with lawsuits and jail time and even have your personal info like your social and date of birth to confirm your identity but, the law is on your side.
If you receive calls from anyone claiming that you owe them money, whether it’s the IRS, Collection Agency, or Law Firm, you can simply demand that the person stop calling you and forward any future communications to you via standard mail in accordance with the FDCPA.
If you receive a document in the mail from a collection agency requesting payment on a debt, consider requesting Debt Validation from the collection agency – which forces the agency to provide copies of documents which you signed with the original creditor corroborating their story and proving your liability in the debt.
If you are receiving calls or mail from companies demanding payment on debt that you’re not sure about, contact CreditFirm.Net at 800-750-1416 for help.
6. Check in With Your Local DMV
Part of the security breach at Equifax included access to data such as your drivers license numbers.
Although less common than typical identity theft that involves accounts being opened in consumers names, some criminals may attempt to create fake drivers licenses with your information and numbers which may lead to parking tickets, moving violations and in some cases even arrest warrants.
Check in with your local Department of Motor Vehicles or Secretary of State office every once in a while and request a copy of your driving record.
Be Proactive About Protecting Your Credit
Stay on top of your credit and personal information, make sure that you keep an eye out for any suspicious activity, and if you have any questions or need help resolving an identity theft or credit issue you can call 800-750-1416 for help.