As you no doubt have heard, credit-reporting company Equifax announced last week that hackers accessed the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers of 143 million people in their database. Credit card numbers for 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal information for 182,000 people were also comprised.
The high risk that you are subject to identity theft is obviously very worrisome. Below are several things you should know in order to protect your personal information and accounts:
- Visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to get updates and find out if your information was potentially affected by the hack. The site requests your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
- Equifax is offering consumers free enrollment in their identity theft and credit monitoring service, TrustedID Premier, for one year. However, the company’s request for additional personal information is concerning if you’re still worried about Equifax’s data security. It is also worth noting that there are conflicting reports of whether or not consumers who sign up for TrustedID Premier may be limiting their legal rights, including their ability to join future class action lawsuits against Equifax.
- Signing up for a credit monitoring service or an identity theft protection service like LifeLock will not prevent fraud from happening, but it will alert you when your personal information is being used or requested.
- Request a copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. Under federal law, you’re allowed to request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can do this for free every 4 months if you rotate agencies. Once you have your credit report, review it for suspicious activities or accounts. If you don’t recognize something, this may be a sign that someone has tried to open a credit card, apply for a loan, or open a new account in your name.
- If you see something suspicious on your credit report, visit www.identitytheft.gov to find information from the Federal Trade Commission on how to alleviate the damage.
- Make monitoring your account statements a habit. Your credit report will not show you if money has been stolen from an existing bank account or if there is suspicious activity on your credit cards. Theft typically starts with small amounts being stolen from an account, and it usually happens over time.
- Place a fraud alert on your accounts, which will warn creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft. A fraud alert will also ensure that a creditor will only get a copy of your credit report after they have first verified the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name. You can request a free fraud alert by contacting one of the three credit reporting agencies; they are required to notify the other two agencies on your behalf. The fraud alert will last for 90 days and can be renewed.
- Consider placing a credit freeze, which is a more extreme step that essentially locks down your credit. A credit freeze blocks anyone—including you—from accessing your credit reports without your permission, making it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Each credit reporting agency will provide you with a unique personal ID number that you can use to “thaw” your credit file if you do in fact need to apply for credit lines in the future.
- Many of us receive prescreened credit card and insurance offers in the mail, which identity thieves sometimes intercept. To opt out of these offers for five years or permanently, you can call 1-888-5-OPT-OUT or visit www.optoutprescreen.com.
- Set up 2-factor authentication on all your online accounts when it’s available; consider setting up 2-factor authentication on your email, too.
- Do not respond to supposed calls from Equifax requesting personal information; Equifax will not be contacting consumers by phone, so any potential requests of this kind are fraudulent.
- Most importantly, remain vigilant about the monitoring of your credit. Most experts believe that the breached information will not be used now; rather, thieves will wait one or two years to commit identity theft when your guard may be down.
The security of your personal information is Monument’s upmost priority. Know that it is our policy to not wire any funds to an outside account without first verbally verifying the request with our clients.
Please do not hesitate to call us if you have any questions or concerns, or if you think you have been a victim of identity theft.
Monument Wealth Management is not a law firm and no portion of this content should be construed as legal advice. The above is intended for informational purposes only. A copy of Monument Wealth Management’s current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees is available for review upon request.