What to do After the Equifax Security Breach
On the off chance you didn't hear, maybe you have been distracted by natural disasters Harvey, Irma, or Mexico's 8.1 earthquake and associated tsunamis, Equifax was involved in a man-made disaster affecting 143 million Americans. Between mid-May and July, hackers accessed people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver's license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers from 209,000 of us.
While this, of course, is very disconcerting, we have outlined the necessary steps to first, find out if you were one of the victims, and second, take the necessary steps to protect your credit as best you can.
- Check your potential impact at the Equifax website by clicking HERE. 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 and an encrypted network connection anytime you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
- 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.
In the meantime, 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.
- Stop pre-screened credit offers to limit future exposure by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688). You can also opt out online.
- Place a CREDIT FREEZE on your accounts. While a credit freeze does not prevent current creditors from accessing your credit report, it does restrict the ability of new creditors to access your credit information.To set up a security freeze you must contact all three of the credit bureaus individually. This process can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked some questions to confirm your identity but it only takes a few minutes.
We recommend beginning with Experian and Transunion as Equifax's website is currently receiving high traffic.
You can freeze your credit by using the following phone numbers and links:
Freeze your credit
Freeze your credit
Freeze your credit
Depending on your state, freezing your credit can cost anywhere from $0 to $10 at each bureau. Proven identity theft victims can have this fee waived. (If you need to lift the freeze you will have to pay the same fee.)
To lift your freeze you simply contact the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN to lift the freeze for a certain period of time. This can be done online or over the phone. It may take a few days for the freeze to be lifted so be sure to do it a few days in advance.
- Put a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim. The creditor must then verify the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name before your credit information can be released.
• For detailed information about credit freezes and fraud alerts,click here
- 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.
• Scammers also use stolen Social Security numbers to apply for work, when arrested for crimes and infractions, to get medical care, and to steal benefits to which you are entitled.
If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov to report and start your recovery plan immediately. Clients should also contact us so we can begin helping you with any necessary changes to your financial information.