Late last week Equifax – one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies – announced that hackers breached its computer systems and stole sensitive information of 143 million Americans. The breach lasted from mid-May through July 2017. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
Some of the ways this information could be used by the bad guys include:
- Taking out a loan or opening a credit card account in your name.
- Filing a false tax return to claim a refund (this will be more of an issue during 2018 tax filing season).
- Accessing your banks accounts.
- Charging your existing credit card for fraudulent purchases (if you were one of the 209,000 people with stolen credit card numbers).
Please note that your accounts with Gordian Advisors whether at Schwab or SSG should not be affected, but rest assured that we monitor all client accounts for unusual activity DAILY and will contact you if we see anything suspicious.
There is a lot of scary and confusing information about the breach floating out there, so here are our recommendations for the steps you can take to help protect your information from being misused:
- Visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ to find out if your information was exposed
- It’s very likely that it was and we would say assume that your data was stolen.
- The site is uncomfortably vague with “Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.”
- Equifax is providing a free one-year subscription to its “TrustedID Premier” credit file monitoring and identity theft protection service. You have until November 21 to sign up for this service.
- Note that the system is overloaded with inquiries and it might take a few hours or even days to send an enrollment email (I’m still waiting for mine).
- After the initial confusion, Equifax clarified that signing up for this service does NOT preclude you from filing or joining a lawsuit against the company which was a big concern for some people. Also they will not automatically sign people up for paid service after the one free year expires.
- You can also put a free “credit freeze” on your Equifax file through the service until November 21 (see more below).
- Keep in mind that you should continue monitoring your credit reports beyond the one-year Equifax offer. It should be an ongoing practice as hackers may decide to use information from this or other breaches 3, 5 or 10 years down the road. I would use the free user-friendly service below to do that.
- You can also sing up for a free Credit Karma account at https://www.creditkarma.com/signup
- You get free unlimited credit scores and credit reports from two of the three major credit agencies – Equifax & TransUnion.
- Make sure to dig into each credit report details & check “Open Accounts” section to see if there are any unauthorized accounts.
- Also check “Hard Inquiries” section for any recent credit applications you didn’t initiate.
- You should sign up for Credit Monitoring and New Account alerts under “Profile & Settings”.
- I (Denis) have personally been using this site for over a year and find it very useful and user-friendly.
- Alternatively, you can use the government-mandated site https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action to access your credit reports, but it’s clunky and confusing compared to Credit Karma.
- Consider placing a Credit Freeze on your files
- A credit freeze makes it much harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
- They ARE a pain though: you have to un-freeze it every time you apply for credit/loan/mortgage and then freeze it back after being approved. Here is a good source of information on their mechanics: http://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/
- You need to do it separately for all three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- There is a fee every time you freeze/thaw your account. Although Equifax is waiving this fee ($5 in Arizona)until November 21.
- This might be a good option for those of you who don’t plan on opening any credit accounts and want the strongest protection against identity theft.
- If you do opt for the freeze, make sure to keep the PIN numbers safe & don’t lose them!
- Here are some links to several articles that provide more details about the breach and your options:
- Assume your information has been compromised but don’t panic.
- At a minimum sign up for Credit Karma with email alerts, check your current reports & monitor them periodically (weekly or monthly).
- If are really concerned, consider placing permanent credit freeze at all three credit bureaus.
Feel free to forward this message to your friends and family. Also, let us know if you have additional questions or concerns about your personal situation and we will do our best to help.