“The quicker you detect identity theft, the easier it is to recover.”
- Equifax announced up to
143 million people had their data compromised.
- This data breach is different than most because of the type of data stolen.
- You must have an action plan to protect your identity.
- Learn as much as you can about your credit; monitor it and protect it.
YOUR IDENTITY IS AT RISK
TIME TO FACE REALITY
I’m not much for hyperbole, but it’s tough to understate the seriousness of the data breach that consumer credit reporting agency Equifax announced on Sept. 8. In case you haven’t been paying attention, stop what you are doing and pay attention.
I know you hear about data breaches all the time, but I assure you, this one is worse than all others. Most of the time the breach causes email addresses and/or credit cards to be compromised, like the Target and Home Depot breach.
I remember receiving a new debit card from my bank as a result. While it was slight inconvenience the problem was resolved fairly quickly.
That’s NOT the case with the Equifax breach. In this case, what’s been done can’t be fixed. Whoever breached this huge coffer of data got access to your SSN, date of birth, driver license number, addresses, email, name, etc. In other words, they got access to you. This goes beyond an extension of you, such as credit card. This hits directly on your identity; your financial one anyway.
This breach is not going to go away with the issuing of new debit card. You will not get another SSN from the government. You will not get another birth date. That’s what makes this different. That’s what makes this huge!
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO
Equifax announced that the breach impacts up to 143 million Americans. That covers most adult Americans with a credit history. I checked everyone in my family, and each person who has a credit history was listed among those impacted. You can check to see if you are among the victims at equifaxsecurity2017.com .
However, even if the website says you weren’t hacked, at this point you have to act as though you were, because more than likely, you were. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring as a result, but these are the same people that put your data at risk, so I honestly take that with a grain of salt.
WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN
A true action plan will included some or all of the following things (or as we have outlined in our recommendation spreadsheet ).
1. Pulling your credit report. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year. Get one from all three bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can do this on annualcreditreport.com
I suggest pulling one bureau a quarter to maximize this benefit.
2. Implement some type of monitoring and alerts. You should monitor each of credit reports through a service (free or paid), making sure that the service alerts you to any significant changes (i.e. name, SSN, address, new accounts, etc.) in your report. Also, set up alerts at your financial institutions for transactions, account logins, etc.
3. Freeze your credit reports. You have to do this with each bureau independently and there is a cost associated depending upon your state. Freezing your report blocks creditors from accessing your file, which keeps new accounts from being opened. If you are actively applying for credit, you have to unfreeze your file (for a fee and waiting period),
so this must be taken into consideration. Your existing creditors will still have access to your file. Also, freezes don’t stop fraud on your existing accounts, which is why monitoring of those, as mentioned above, is good.
BONUS: Check out our Identity Theft Slide Deck. This slide deck is from a seminar we conducted in relation to this issue. You won’t get all the intricacies from the actual class, but the information is still valuable.
GOING FORWARD – Take Charge!
Unfortunately, this is the new norm. Life has materially changed in regards to our financial identity. I believe we will see legislation changes as result of this, but in the meantime we have to be vigilent in safeguarding what we’ve worked hard to obtain.
As I said before, there is no fix for this, but you can get “insurance” by staying on top of your finances. Please don’t think this will go away once the news reports stop. To do so, would be like driving with car insurance. You can do it, but you’re taking a chance of financial failure with one bad accident.
Be on the look out for future seminars both on and off line in regards to this other topics from 360FinancED. We’re here to help as much as possible.