“Credit monitoring company Equifax has been hit by a high-tech heist that exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information about 143,000,000 Americans. Now the unwitting victims have to worry about the threat of having their identities stolen.
The Atlanta-based company, one of three major U.S. credit bureaus, said Thursday that “criminals” exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.” You can read the full story from AP News here.
This is a very unfortunate event to say the very least. In essence, all of us have a 50% chance of having our identities stolen. Let that sink in for just a moment, 50% chance of having your identity stolen. That tips the scale in the bad guys favor.
If someone wanted to create credit in your name or take advantage of your benefits or create tax fraud, it’s easier to do it now.
So what can we do to protect ourselves after the Equifax Data Breach?
2) Check your exposure to the event with Equifax. They have created a special site to check your exposure, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, and are offering a complimentary TrustedID Premier identity theft protection and credit file monitoring.
3) Check your bank accounts, credit card accounts and benefits statements. Look for any suspicious activity and report it immediately to your financial institutions and credit reporting organizations.
4) Check your internet subscription inventory. Just how many services (Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Audible, etc.) do you have linked to bank cards or credit cards? Make sure you know and have a separate password to each one.
5) Make a habit of checking your accounts regularly. Maybe your accounts look clean now. Keep in mind hackers are patient and willing to bide their time before exploiting your information.
What if my identity has been stolen?
Here are the 3 steps to-do immediately to limit the damage:
1) Place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies. (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian)
2) Order your credit reports from all 3 credit reporting agencies. (TransUnion, Equifax, Experian) Identity theft victims get copies for FREE.
3) Create an Identity Theft Report by contacting the Federal Trade Commission & Your Local Police. (Your FTC affidavit and police report make your identity theft report).
As stated earlier, this data breach by Equifax is certainly unfortunate and disappointing. And while the scale and size of this breach is historic, we do have tools and things we can do to take control of the situation. Please take a moment to check your accounts regularly. Keep a close eye on them. If you can check Facebook a couple of times a day or buckle your seat belt every time you get in the car, you’ve got time to check your accounts. The more you check them, the more familiar you are with them and the easier it is to stay in tune with your finances.
All the best,
Client First Tax & Wealth Advisors
P.S. For those who saw this live or want a refresher, here’s the video presentation of “How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft” you can view and share with friends.