Most adults in the US are affected by the hack. Here is a simple guide to what you can do about it.
As you have probably heard, Equifax revealed a massive breach last Friday affecting almost half of the U.S. population. Hackers may have gained access to personal information like Social Security numbers, addresses, driver’s licenses numbers, and even credit card numbers.
The intent of this email is to provide several recommendations on how to protect yourself. Monitoring your credit, considering freezing your credit, and remaining diligent in the future are sound options for ensuring your financial security.
Monitoring your Credit
Equifax is offering a complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring service. This service is free for 1 year. Equifax’s site states that you will not be automatically enrolled or billed after the conclusion of the first year. Equifax has updated their site to also state that enrolling does not waive any rights to future legal action. Enrollment in their process must be completed by November 21st. To check your potential impact on Equifax’s security site, head to this page.
Check your credit reports for free. Everyone is guaranteed one free credit report annually per bureau. Make sure that there isn’t any unusual activity that could indicate identity theft. There are three major credit bureaus. Equifax, Transunion and Experian. Some credit advisors recommend alternating one credit bureau every four months as a way to monitor your credit throughout the year.
Consider a FREEZE on your Credit
Even if your credit report comes back clean, remain vigilant about protecting your credit. One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what’s called a “credit freeze.” This is great to prevent new accounts from being opened. However, it may affect your loan process if you are applying for a mortgage. If you are concerned about how this may affect your mortgage, please contact us.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
Equifax Security Freeze 800-349-9960
Experian Security Freeze 888-397-3742
Transunion Security Freeze 888-909-8872
The process is usually automated and can be completed within a few minutes. Just be sure to write down your PINs in a secure place.
It’s important to be attentive and mindful of your personal information. If your data was stolen, the thieves can be patient and may or may not use the data for an extended period of time. Identity thieves can also use stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and collect refunds. Our recommendation is to come up with a plan and take action. Also, don’t forget to help family and friends who may need assistance in protecting their identity.
Set Up a Fraud Alert
A fraud alert is another way to make it hard for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. To set a fraud alert, contact just one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once the alert is set, it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it. Here are the appropriate phone numbers for the bureaus (remember, just call one):
Equifax Fraud Alert 888-766-0008
Experian Fraud Alert 888-397-3742
Transunion Fraud Alert 800-680-7289
If you have any additional questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.