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The Equifax Breach – What to do Now


Earlier this year, Equifax, one of the three largest credit reporting agencies in America, experienced a data breach that exposed the sensitive personal information of 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. Additionally, hackers stole credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 people. The bottom line: your personal and financial information may have been exposed.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends a number of steps for you to help protect your information from being misused.

  1. Find out if your information was exposed. Visit Equifax’s website (www.equifaxsecurity2017.com) and click on “Am I Impacted” to find out. The site will ask for your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information; be sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. Regardless of whether your information was compromised, Equifax is providing a year of free identity theft and credit monitoring service. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. You have until January 31, 2018 to enroll.
  2. Check your credit reports from the big three credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Check for any unusual activity or accounts you do not recognize.
  3. Consider placing a freeze on your credit files. A credit freeze makes it difficult for someone to open a new account in your name but keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. To place a freeze, you need to contact each of the credit reporting bureaus through their website or customer service telephone number. For extra security, you can apply the freeze to a fourth, lesser-known consumer reporting agency, Innovis. The drawback of placing a freeze on your accounts is that it shuts out companies you may want to do business with, however it is the single most effective way to protect against fraud.
  4. Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely. Watch for charges you don’t recognize and consider activating two-factor authentication on all of your existing mobile banking, savings, credit card and other financial accounts that offer it. Two-factor authentication requires a special code be texted to your phone when trying to access an account online, so there is an added layer of security beyond your existing password.
  5. Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is different than a credit freeze as it 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. A fraud alert lasts 90 days and if you are the victim of identity theft, you can get an alert that stays in place for seven years. To put a fraud alert on your accounts, contact one of the big three credit bureaus and they will notify the other two.
  6. File your taxes early. As soon as you have the tax information you need, file your tax return – before a scammer can. Hackers will be able to use your personal information to claim your refund. Respond right away to letters from the IRS and stay in communication with your tax accountants.

As a result of this breach, hackers are in possession of the personal information of millions of Americans, and this data does not expire. The hackers will be able to use this information tomorrow or in ten years. In order to protect yourself, be proactive in preventing identity theft by utilizing the steps outlined above now and continue monitoring your credit reports in the future.

If you have any questions about the impact of this data breach, please contact your Berntson Porter representative at 425-454-7990. We’re here to help!