On September 7th, Equifax reported a massive breach of over 143 million records from their database. According to Equifax, the data breach lasted from mid-May through July of this year exposing consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, credit card numbers for 209,000 consumers and dispute documents, including personal identifying information for 182,000 consumers were also accessed. This personal and financial information could be used by identity thieves to impersonate consumers and conduct fraud.
As a result of the hack, Equifax is providing 1 year of complementary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services to all US consumers from TrustedID Premier, an Equifax company. Additionally, the fee to freeze your Equifax credit file has been waived. A “credit freeze” prevents new creditors (legitimate and fraudulent) from accessing your credit report. Preventing new credit cards and loans from being approved until you remove the freeze. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score or existing accounts and cards. Therefore, consumers who are considering placing a credit freeze with Equifax should consider adding credit freezes with Experian and Transunion, which can be done for a fee. The phone numbers to do so are listed below.
- Experian: (888) 397-3742
Freeze your credit
- Transunion: (888) 909-8872
Freeze your credit
- Equifax: (866) 349-5191
Freeze your credit
While a credit freeze blocks new credit file requests, a “credit alert” requires a creditor to take extra precautions to verify the identity of the consumer before approving the credit request. Several types of credit alerts exist and last for varying time periods. Any credit bureau contacted to add a credit alert will notify the other credit bureaus to add the alert to their file as well. There is no fee to add credit alerts.
Even if using credit monitoring services such as Equifax’s TrustedID or another provider, credit freezes or credit alerts, there is no fail proof way to prevent consumers from becoming a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, the Equifax data breach is just one of many that have occurred recently with more almost certain to follow. The saying “the best offense is a good defense” also holds true for personal information, including the types exposed in the Equifax breach.
Lee Financial recommends clients do the following:
- Review credit card and bank statements for suspicious activity each month
- Request a copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies annually from https://www.annualcreditreport.com (free)
- Utilize dual factor authentication/verification on website where available
- Avoid sending sensitive information such as account numbers and Social Security numbers via email
- Avoid accessing websites of financial institutions using public Wi-Fi
Additionally, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) posted a consumer alert warning Americans about fraudulent calls posing as Equifax employees asking people to verify their account information. If you receive a call, the FTC recommends not providing any personal information over the phone and report it on https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
To find out if you were included in the breach, please click on the link below and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your SSN. Direct mail notices will be sent to consumers whose credit card or dispute documents containing personal information were exposed.
For consumer updates, answers to frequently asked questions and links to resources, including how to enroll in TrustedID, consumers may visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/.
It’s important to know how to protect your personal information and how various methods may impact you day-to-day. Please contact a member of your Lee Financial team if you have any questions.
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