Equifax Breach: Were you Affected?
By Scott Dawson, MS, CFP®
As you have probably heard, Equifax had a cybersecurity attack that potentially impacted 143 million Americans. The hackers accessed Equifax’s database from mid-May until July 2017 and they captured names, birth dates, addresses, social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. In addition, 209,000 Americans may have had their credit card numbers accessed.
What steps do you need to take to see if you were affected? The first step is to check if you were one of the 143 million affected by the breach. You can visit Equifax’s website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine if your information has been compromised. Once on the website, click Potential Impact and you will be prompted to enter your last name, and last 6 digits of your social security number, and then confirm you are not a robot. You will be told instantly whether you were impacted by the breach.
Because of the data breach, Equifax is offering one year free of credit monitoring to all Americans, which you can enroll for on the above mentioned website. Credit monitoring doesn’t prevent hackers from using your data, but helps you to monitor suspicious activity.
Whether you were impacted or not by the breach, it’s always a good practice to check your credit reports annually and look for unfamiliar or suspicious activity. Individuals are allowed to receive one free credit report every twelve months from each of the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can request your credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com. In addition, always review your bank and credit card statements. Comb through each statement to ensure that you did make each purchase or initiated each transaction. Identity thieves sometimes start small and then go big.
If Equifax says your personal information has been compromised, you have a couple options: place a credit freeze or fraud alert on your credit files.
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which means you or no one else can open new credit using your personal information. If you needed to make a purchase requiring a new application for credit, like a car loan or home refinance, you will be required to unfreeze your credit file. To initiate a freeze, contact all three credit reporting agencies by phone or internet. The cost to freeze and unfreeze your credit file varies by state. The cost usually is no more than $10 for each credit reporting agency, though Equifax is now waiving their fee.
Another option is a fraud alert. The fraud alert informs creditors that your identity may have been compromised and creditors will need to verify the identity of the individual trying to establish credit. To initiate a fraud alert, you can contact one of the three credit reporting agencies and the credit agency will alert the other two. Fraud alerts are available for 90 days or 7 years. A fraud alert for 7 years is only available to individuals who have been victims of identity theft and must provide documentation to the credit agencies. Otherwise, a fraud alert is only available for 90 days, but you can renew after it expires. There is no cost to place a fraud alert on your credit files.
To obtain more detailed information, visit the Equifax and Federal Trade Commission’s websites.
Please contact us if you have any questions.