What to do to Minimize Your Risk Following the Equifax Breach
As most everyone knows by now, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax revealed they were the target of one of the largest data breaches in history. The cyber-attack took place between May and July of this year and approximately 143 million consumers have had their personal data compromised. Consumer names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and possibly credit card credentials were stolen. You may be wondering how you can protect your personal information and keep your financial data secure. As we are all learning, nothing is totally secure these days. Below we’ve listed some ideas to assist you in the short term, and long-term, to help create financial peace of mind. Click here for additional information, including Schwab’s suggestions for minimizing security breaches.
- Equifax initially provided consumers the option to check and see if their information was stolen but, in doing so, consumers gave up their legal rights to participate in a class action suit in the future. This is no longer the case. You may now go to equifaxsecurity2017.com and see if you were impacted. As part of their response, Equifax will allow you to enroll to receive free credit file monitoring for a year.
- Place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit report. This fraud alert requires lenders to contact you if anyone attempts to apply for credit during the 90 day period. Lenders will contact you even if you apply yourself. You can establish this fraud alert by contacting one of the three credit agencies and it will be placed on all three.
- It is important to stay diligent when monitoring your credit. Check your credit daily to stay on top of any fraudulent activity. Check credit reports for all family members, even minor children, who may not be affected now but could be later in life. Hackers will likely store this data to use when your children are older. Use a free reporting site, such as Credit Karma, to monitor this.
- Equifax has stated they will not reach out to anyone who was affected by this breach. Do not open any emails, or links in emails, from “Equifax.” It will most likely be from someone attempting to steal your personal information.
- Consider placing a credit freeze, which involves contacting Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This Credit Freeze will prevent any new accounts from being opened unless you use the password you created during the process of placing the credit freeze (click here for more information on this). It’s important to realize that a credit freeze does not prevent fraudulent activity on current accounts. You can remove and re-establish a credit freeze via the web portal maintained by each of the credit bureaus. Typically, there are fees associated with this service but they are often nominal amounts.
- Change your passwords on all accounts. Hackers will attempt to use the passwords they have stolen from Equifax on other sites looking for a match. It is important to update your password on each account to be certain that no further personal information will be stolen.
Cassady Schiller Wealth Management, together with Charles Schwab (our custodian), understand the need to safeguard your personal information. We have numerous processes in place to help minimize the potential for fraud. As we’ve all experienced through the Equifax breach, nothing is totally foolproof so we all need to continue to be diligent in regularly reviewing our credit and personal financial accounts. If you have any questions or would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact our office.