By the CheckWorks Team
At CheckWorks, we take every measure to inform and protect our customers and website visitors in the areas of business and personal finances. A breach at Equifax, one of three U.S. credit-reporting agencies, has compromised much of its customers’ data. Some people, including young adults who are new to the world of credit, may not know that Equifax maintains credit profiles on all Americans in the credit system. Below, you’ll find out what’s at risk and the steps you can take to protect yourself and your credit. Tell everyone you know about this breach, and send them to this article for details and links to vital information.
Assume Your Information Has Been Hacked
Hackers accessed personal and credit information including names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank and credit card information. The breach was one of the largest ever and affected up to 143 million Americans or 44 percent of the U.S. population. The stolen information was quickly posted and sold online on the dark web, a hidden part of the web frequented by criminal elements, and immediately used to make fraudulent purchases in your name. Assume your information has been compromised.
Equifax notified authorities of the breach Sept. 7, more than a month after they learned about it July 29. Between the time the hack was conducted sometime between mid-May and July and its disclosure, hackers were free to use the information they had gained from the Equifax computers. According to Bloomberg, three top Equifax executives sold shares worth around $1.8 million Aug. 1 and 2 more than a month ahead of the disclosure.
Steps to Take to Protect Yourself
Perform the following steps as soon as possible:
- From a secure computer or an encrypted connection, sign up at Equifax for a free security check. They will scan the dark web to see if any of your information is out there. In a few days, they will extend an invitation to join TrustedID, a credit file monitoring product, free of charge. You have until Nov. 21, 2017, to enroll, but you want to run the scan now.
- Place fraud alerts with the reporting agencies to warn creditors that you have been the victim of identity theft and to contact you if anyone seeks credit in your name. It won’t stop someone from altering information on current accounts.
- If your information has been stolen, contact all your financial institutions and request new credit cards, bank account numbers, etc. Change passwords on all online accounts. Consider putting a credit freeze on your credit files so no one can open a new account.
- Check each of your bank accounts, PayPal and other online payment processors, trading accounts and credit cards daily and report any unusual activity to the them. Dispute any fraudulent charges.
- Sign up for text and/or email transaction alerts from all your financial institutions.
- Check your credit report at www.creditreport.com where you can receive a free annual report.
- The Federal Trade Commission suggests that you file your 2017 taxes early if your information has been compromised—before a thief can file in your name.
- Sign up for monthly credit reports and interim alerts at www.creditkarma.com and www.creditsesame.com.
- Optionally sign up for an identity theft protection service such as LifeLock. Use the OPM discount code with LifeLock (which was operational when this was posted and should be good through the end of September) for 30 free days and a 15 percent discount.
Note: Equifax released the following statement Sept. 10, according to The Washington Post:
“To confirm, enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products that we are offering as part of this cybersecurity incident does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action.”
ZDNet tested the Equifax scan site, and the results suggest the information may be unreliable.
Where to Go From Here
Remember, cybercriminals are always one step ahead of the good guys, so there is intentional redundancy built into the steps above. Don’t let your guard down once you’ve attacked the Equifax breach. There’s more you need to learn.
- Attack potential identity theft from all angles. Once you’ve completed the steps above, visit www.identifytheft.gov to arm yourself with comprehensive information about protecting your data and restoring your credit should that become necessary.
- Watch your mailbox for information on joining the class-action lawsuit against Equifax filed by attorneys Mark Fuller and Mark Geragos’ (of O.J. Simpson trial fame) law firm, said to be the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history.