In this tech-savvy era, our clients at Milestone Consulting and our wealth management clients at Monolith Advisors are increasingly expressing their concerns about the security of their financial data. High-profile security hacks like the recent Equifax breach are even more of a reason to check on your accounts and lock down your personal and financial information in as many ways as possible.
Here is what we know about the breach according to Equifax. The hack spanned from mid-May through July and affected some 143 million Americans by accessing their data such as full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers. About 209,000 people were robbed of their credit card numbers, and 182,000 people had their personal information stolen through dispute documents.
If you think you have been affected by the Equifax breach, here’s what to do right now:
- Using a secure computer, visit equifaxsecurity2017.com search for your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number under the “Potential Impact” tab. You will receive a message indicating whether your personal information may have been stolen during the breach.
- Enroll in free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring (this service is available to you regardless of whether your information was stolen in the breach).
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers additional steps everyone should take to protect their information after a data breach like the Equifax hack:
- Check your credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you notice activity you don’t recognize, visit www.identitytheft.gov right away for instructions.
- Consider placing a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files, which will make it more difficult for an identity thief to open accounts in your name.
- Regularly monitor your existing financial accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
- File your taxes early and respond right away to letters from the IRS.
How to Place a Freeze on Your Credit Report
To place a freeze on your credit reports, you need to call the credit reporting companies. There are three big ones — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and one smaller one, Innovis. We recommend freezing your credit at all four. Here are the numbers to call and links online:
- Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
- Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
- Innovis — 1-800-540-2505
- Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Transunion: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp
- Innovis: https://www.innovis.com/securityFreeze/index
- Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Further, consider using your smartphone to help keep track of your credit card activity. Major credit card companies have their own apps that will send you a notification every time a purchase is made. You’ll find out almost instantaneously if someone makes a charge without your consent. You can also call your credit card companies to temporarily suspend non-essential cards and place more security controls on the ones you use regularly.
An identify theft protection service might give you additional peace of mind. Lifelock, for example, looks for use of users’ personal information by searching a wide range of potential identity theft threats. If the company notices activity with a user’s personal info, he or she receives an alert you by text, email or a phone call. If it looks like fraud, they get to work right away to resolve the case.
If you were impacted by the Equifax security breach, act immediately to protect your information. If you weren’t a victim this time, consider yourself lucky and take the breach as a reminder to do your due diligence to prevent future identity theft.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).