This post includes a collection of articles regarding the Equifax breach.
How to Protect Yourself from the Massive Equifax Hack
The bad news is that there’s a good chance your personal information was stolen during the massive data hack of Equifax, one of America’s three largest credit reporting agency. The thieves stole the social security numbers, dates of birth, names and addresses of 143 million Americans—that’s about 60% of the adult population of the United States.
This is particularly dangerous because with that information, the thieves could steal your identity to take out new loans in your name, alter your existing accounts, and ruin your good credit. But the good news is…well, there isn’t much good news to a hack of this size.
Still, if you act quickly, it’s possible you can protect yourself. Here are the steps you need to take sooner rather than later.
1. Find out if your information was compromised. Visit https://www.ftc.gov/equifax-data-breach and learn more.
2. If it says your information was likely stolen, at a minimum you should sign up for the free credit monitoring Equifax is offering for a year.
But that level of protection likely isn’t enough. The thieves still have your personal information and could use it to apply to lenders who don’t use Equifax. Also, because the thieves have your social security number, they could wait and use it a year or five or ten years from now—unless America totally rethinks the system it uses to identify everyone, that still leaves you vulnerable.
Here are some other steps you should consider taking, adapted from the Federal Trade Commissions recommendations:
• Start checking your your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You can check each one time a year for free. Space them out in four month intervals, so you’re regularly getting up-to-date information. If you see evidence of identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
• Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. A credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts, but implementing a freeze at all three of the major credit bureaus means they won’t be able to issue a report to any company that doesn’t already have you has a customer, making it harder for the thieves to use your information to open a new line of credit. You can unfreeze it with a special PIN when you want to apply for a new loan.
• Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
• If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
• File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your social security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
By putting a freeze on your accounts, checking your credit reports regularly, and monitoring activity on your existing accounts, you’ll be doing everything you can to protect yourself.
Visit the federal government’s CFPB web page Identity theft protection following the Equifax data breach: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/identity-theft-protection-following-equifax-data-breach/
If you have concerns about the Equifax® data breach, please contact Equifax at 866-447-7559, or visit their website.
What You Can Do Now
Not everyone will be a victim of identity theft as a result of a breach, but keeping informed can help you mitigate risk when dealing with any data breach. When a breach does occur, you can take action by doing a few things.
1.Stay alert: If you have been part of a data breach, the breached company may send you a notice. Retain all documents and consider any suggestions they may have. Also, pay attention to and retain any mail you receive that is unfamiliar to you, such as notices from the IRS regarding your taxes or any bills from unknown lenders. Contact unknown lender as soon as learn about them.
2.Initiate a fraud alert: You can set a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. When you request a fraud alert be added with any of the three major credit bureaus, the bureau you contacted will notify the other two and alerts will be added with those bureaus as well. A fraud alert (also known as an initial security alert) will warn lenders that you may have been a fraud victim. This extra precaution will notify the potential lender that they should contact you before granting any new line of credit in your name. This fraud alert will stay on your credit report for 90 days. You can renew the fraud alert when it expires.
3. Monitor your financial accounts: Visit your online credit union, bank and financial accounts, and set up any alert features they may have, if you have not already done so. This could help save some time and keep you notified of any unusual events when they occur. At BCS Community Credit Union, you can setup email or text alerts in It’sMe247 Online Banking to alert you of certain transactions.
4. Sign in to your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion accounts to monitor your credit: Checking your credit report can help you identify any unusual activity, such as new accounts, new personal information or inquiries.
5. Freeze or lock your credit file: You may consider adding a security freeze. You can freeze your credit reports with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. A security freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report, so you will have very limited access to credit. Your credit report will only be accessible by unfreezing the account. If you are planning on applying for new credit in the near future, you could consider postponing the security freeze. Fees and requirements for adding and removing a freeze vary by bureau and by state.
6. Review your account: Review every transaction on your credit union account in Online Banking often, and check your account statement promptly; and review all your statements for that matter. Contact us (or the institution that issued the statement in question) if you see anything suspicious. Sign up for It’sMe247 Online Banking and text alerts, and setup eStatements to keep your account information out of the mail.
7. Keep your contact information up to date. The credit union and our card processors use technology and other methods to help prevent fraud. You can help by making sure that your contact information is complete and up to date, including your cell phone number and email address. The best way to update this information in from within It’sMe247 Online Banking. Also, answering our calls or promptly returning messages can help to speed up our response to suspicious activity.
How We Can Help
The credit union will continue to be diligent about safeguarding your information, including requiring photo ID (if we don’t know you) when you visit, and asking for verifying information when you call (please be patient with us as we take the time to verify your identity). Also, our Online Banking service uses several layers of security to help safeguard your information.
We don’t disclose all of our security measure for obvious reasons. These types of data breaches are not new, and the credit union already has measures in place to help protect you and your account.