Response to the Equifax Issue
(First released September 12, 2017)
“It’s time for us all to play defense.” – Ron Lieber, NY Times on Equifax data breach
By now everyone is aware that Equifax has reported a data breach that may have compromised the Social Security numbers of 140 million Americans. That is about half of everyone in the United States, so the odds are decent that yours is one of those affected.
The initial Equifax response to the breach left consumers bewildered and consumer advocates howling. Look for renewed pressure from consumer advocacy groups in Washington to investigate the practices of a credit reporting industry that has to date operated with little or no oversight.
What You Should Do Now:
- If you are a client who has been the victim of identity theft or credit fraud, please contact us immediately. We will place an alert in our files and will notify the account custodian(s) for the assets we manage. The custodian will put an extra layer of security in place on the account(s) to safeguard your assets. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Amber or Julie at (916) 608-4284.
- We encourage everyone to go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click the “potential impact” button at the bottom of the web page. You will be required to enter your last name and the last six digits of your SSN. Equifax will indicate whether or not your number was part of the breach.
- Regardless, consumer protection advocates are recommending you sign up for the Equifax offer of one year of free TrustedID Premier credit protection. This service includes monitoring all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion as well as other features. Your request may be accepted right away, or you may get a date to enroll in the coming days or weeks(mine is September 12). Due to the overwhelming burden on Equifax’ services, there could be a period when you are without credit monitoring unless you have purchased another service.
- Contrary to Experian’s original notice, selecting this option does not require a consumer to waive their rights to sue the company or participate in any class action suits.
- It is possible that Experian will try to sell consumers on continuing this service after the free year is up, and even ask for a credit card which will convert to autopay after 12 months. We suggest taking the free year and making a note on your calendar in 12 months to determine what to do then.
- Other options for consumers:
- Check your credit now. We highly recommend www.annualcreditreport.com. This free service can be used every four months and provides consumers current reports from the three major agencies.
- Consider a credit freeze. A credit freeze prevents agencies from providing your credit information to new creditors without your permission. The companies will send you a PIN number to verify your identity in the future. Do NOT lose this PIN number. A freeze will be cumbersome if you are applying for a job, a loan, or just opening a store credit card. There is a small additional charge for a credit freeze.
- Put a fraud alert on your credit file. A fraud alert usually is active for 90 days and is free. It prevents any new credit from being issued in your name without proper identification. Calling one agency will alert all three. We suggest calling one of the two other organizations whose phone lines will be slightly less jammed. Make a note on your calendar to call and renew the fraud alert after the initial 90 days have elapsed.
- Sign up for the free credit monitoring services at Credit Karma and check it monthly.
- Purchase a third-party credit monitoring service. Here is a site with comparison reviews of the primary providers.
- The services above will not monitor fraudulent charges on existing credit card or other accounts. To do this, you should carefully review your statements monthly.
- Be aware that there is also the potential for someone to use your Social Security number to file a tax return in your name and collect your tax refund or apply for a job. Absent any protective measures yet to be developed by the IRS to protect you against this; the best advice is to file early.
- If you suspect you are the victim of identity theft, see this list of steps to take from Bankrate.
- Change your online passwords, especially for sites that have any financial or confidential information. We recommend the use of a password manager that creates strong passwords (mixed caps, numbers, special characters, 8-10 characters long). Recommendations provided here.
- Additional Information:
- Contacting the Credit Agencies
- Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
- Experian — 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
- Additional Articles
- Contacting the Credit Agencies
- How To Use Equifax’s Much Hated Website – WSJ
- Equifax’s Instructions Are Confusing – NY Times
- How To Protect Yourself From The Equifax Hack – Medium.com
If you are a client who needs assistance with this issue or has additional questions, please email email@example.com, or call Amber or Julie at (916) 608-4284.