Last week, the public learned that Equifax, one of four credit bureaus, had been hacked, potentially exposing the personal information of 143 million people. Potentially compromised information includes Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
There has been much uproar over the situation beyond the fact that there was a breach. Equifax reportedly learned of the breach back in July, but just recently released the information to the public. Additionally, Equifax executives reportedly sold almost $2 million worth of company stock just before the breach was announced. Equifax also set up a website to help consumers determine if they were potentially affected by the security breach and recommended that everyone, potentially affected or not, should sign up for a complimentary year of TrustedID Premier, which is an identity theft protection service owned by Equifax. Over the last week, there has been much scrutiny over whether or not this website is actually producing accurate information regarding affected consumers. We are hesitant to recommend using TrustedID Premier, given that Equifax does indeed own the company.
What should I do next?
There are several steps you can take to help monitor your credit and accounts for any fraudulent activity:
1. Consider freezing your credit or at least putting a fraud alert on your credit report.
By freezing your credit, no one will be able to open account or take out a loan in your name. You will need to call all four credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, and Innovis to request the freeze and pay a small fee. When you need to unfreeze your credit, you will again need to call all four bureaus to have them unfreeze it and pay a small fee. The fee will be $3-$10 and varies by state. If you choose to go this route, don’t forget about your children’s credit as well. Additionally, it won’t affect your credit score and won’t prevent you from accessing your free annual credit reports. If you do decide to put a freeze on your credit, make sure you document and retain the PIN needed to unfreeze your credit. Keep the PIN is a secure location. It is not recommended to freeze your credit if you are shopping for a loan or plan to apply for a credit card soon. While freezing your family’s credit may be somewhat of a hassle, it is the only way to prevent anyone from opening new lines of credit in your name. It’s easier to spend a little time and money to protect yourself rather than spending several years trying to prove your identity. See below for the phone numbers to call to freeze your credit. You may also request a freeze by visiting each company’s website.
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1 888 397 3742
- Innovis: 1-800-540-2505
Another step to consider is putting a fraud alert on your credit report if you don’t want to or can’t freeze your credit at this time. It is free to do so and it increases the number of steps creditors and lenders must take to verify your identity. For more information, please visit www.consumer.ftc.gov.
2. Use a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service, such as LifeLock.
D3 Affordable Family Office clients receive LifeLock Standard as a complimentary service and we believe it is a worthwhile service to help alert you to potential issues and help you resolve them. LifeLock monitors the credit bureaus and sends you real-time alerts when anyone opens an account or loan in your name. These types of services won’t prevent fraud, but some offer identity recovery assistance should you ever become a victim of identity theft.
3. Log in to each of your bank and credit card accounts online and make sure all important alerts are on turned on.
Getting a text message or email when your card is charged or a change is made in your account is a helpful way to keep track card activity. It is also critical to make sure to check your accounts regularly, ideally on a weekly basis, to make sure nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.
4. Check your credit report annually.
Everyone is able to access one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. This website helps you get your credit reports in minutes. Keep your current credit report to keep on file so in the future you can easily identify anything new that shouldn’t be there and help remind you when your eligible for your next free credit report in 12 months. We recommend staggering your requests so that you receive one every four months. This way, less time passes between each requested credit report, allowing you to more closely monitor your credit.
5. File your tax return ASAP.
One potential use of your Social Security number by a hacker is filing a fraudulent tax return and stealing your refund. It is imperative to file your taxes as soon as you can so there’s less time for someone else to file it fraudulently. Once you receive all needed forms and information you need to file your taxes in early 2018, go ahead and file it.
6. Consider opting out of pre-screened offers of credit.
Opting out will also come with the added benefit of reduced junk mail. You can call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The online form takes less than three minutes to complete.
Taking the above steps should help bring you some peace of mind. If you have any questions, please contact D3 Financial Counselors at 630-271-0033.