Jon Baker Financial Group emailed our clients on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017 regarding the Equifax Data Breach. Since then, there have been several additional developments that we want to break down for you to provide additional clarity to allow you to take action…
As a recap, according to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July. Hackers targeted people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers were also stolen. This breach has affected 143 million people across the US, UK, and Canada. This is by far the largest and most severe data breach in our history.
Equifax’s Response to the Breach
Equifax will send correspondence by MAIL to those who were exposed. If you don’t want to wait, the company has put a tool on their website to check your potential impact (https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/). To find out if your information was exposed, click on the “Potential Impact” tab on the Equifax site and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0009-computer-security) and also not on an open wi-fi network. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
In addition, Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring through their credit monitoring service.
What you can do to protect yourself
If your information has been compromised by the Equifax breach, it could be years before your data could be used illegally, so you must plan to be diligent for the long term. This includes reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements along with your credit report for possible identity theft.
• We recommend that you skip the one year of free credit monitoring offer by Equifax. One security expert recently commented, “The fact that the breached entity(Equifax) is offering to sign consumers up for its own identity theft protection services strikes me as pretty rich.” If you already signed up, there is no danger in it, but avoid being lulled into a false sense of security.
• The most immediate thing you can do right now is to place a Credit Freeze on your records. Even if you show up as not being affected by this breach, we recommend that everyone do this regardless, as these breaches unfortunately are becoming a common occurrence. Placing the freeze at the three credit bureaus is very easy via automated systems in place at each bureau—it takes about 10 minutes in full. A credit freeze can temporarily be lifted and then put back in place if you are actively seeking credit. Once requested by you, the unfreezing is required by law to occur no later than 3 business days after requested, however in many cases it’s instantaneous. For detailed information about credit freezes and fraud alerts, and how to accomplish freezing and unfreezing, (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/artic…/0497-credit-freeze-faqs…). The cost for freezing is state specific, and ranges from $0-$10. A time-saving tip: when establishing the freeze, answer “no” to questions regarding whether or not you are a victim of ID theft. They are asking solely to determine if you can place the freeze for free, which requires submitting proof of the theft. Skip it and pay the small fee.
• Be wary of any emails you receive that are purportedly from Equifax and suggest you click on this or that link. The security breach is a perfect opportunity for fraudsters pretending to be from Equifax to prey upon the chance to steal your identity and/or compromise your computer’s security. The best thing to do, always, when you receive an email from any business who asks you to click on their link is to instead find the company’s website and follow any links you find there.
• Check your credit report at (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) Consumers are entitled to one credit report from each of the three reporting agencies each year. We recommend downloading a report from a different agency every three to four months.
• Stop pre-screened credit offers to limit future exposure by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You can also opt out online (https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t).
• Last, but not least, file your income taxes early each year and be sure to respond to any IRS correspondence immediately. Doing so will limit the ability of scammers to use your Social Security numbers to get a tax refund in your name.
• A data breach doesn’t mean that you will become a victim of ID theft, but if you discover that your information has been used fraudulently, contact us immediately for assistance. We are here to help.
Jon Baker, MSFS, CFP®
Jon Baker Financial Group
1050 Crown Pointe Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30338