A few short weeks ago, Equifax - one of the country’s largest credit reporting agencies - announced a breach of massive proportions. Between the months of May and July of this year, over 143 million consumers had their sensitive financial information exposed to potential hackers. With a breach of that scale, there is a very good chance that your financial information has been exposed.
We take the security of our clients’ financial information very seriously. In an effort to help our clients - and anyone concerned about their financial security - we’ve put together seven potential steps to take to proactively protect yourself from this unprecedented breach of personal security. (For more, see: Was I Hacked? Find Out If the Equifax Breach Affects You.)
7 Security Steps to Take
- Understand if you were exposed in this hack. If you visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com you can find out if your information was exposed. Click on “Potential Impact” and follow the prompts to see if you were subject to the hack.
- Check your credit report for suspicious activity. Whether you were subject to the hack or not, you’ll want to check your credit report. You can get a free one annually from www.annualcreditreport.com. This will detail your credit for you. You should pay special attention to the last four months to see if there are any signs of suspicious activity.
- Look in to utilizing a third-party identity theft protection service. You can receive a free year of credit monitoring from Equifax (visit the same www.equifaxsecurity2017.com) or you can subscribe to any number of other services to perform the same function. This can help to proactively protect you if your information hasn’t been used yet, but is still in a database. Note: Equifax’s credit monitoring service, TrustedID Premier, is the service to which you’ll subscribe if you take Equifax up on their offer. While it is free for a year, you will be automatically renewed next year if you do not cancel.
- When tax time rolls around consider filing early. Often hackers will wait until the new year comes to pounce on unsuspecting consumers. They will use your information to try and receive fraudulent tax refunds, which creates an issue for you and the IRS.
- Consider putting a freeze or alerts on your credit. A freeze will not allow you to open any new credit accounts and it does cost money to turn it on or off, so be careful with this option. A fraud alert will help to keep you updated on any new inquiries, but expires after 90 days.
- Think about getting new credit cards, debit cards, etc. with new numbers. By proactively requesting that you receive all new cards and numbers you’ll be ahead of the curve if your information was compromised.
- Beware of scams that will try to capitalize on this breach. If you receive a call or email from a third party that is requesting personal information to be shared, beware. There are many fake phishing and malware campaigns being spread to try and gather sensitive information. Always take steps to ensure you’re speaking with a real company and never share personal information over the phone unless you contact them.
With so much at risk, many people are wondering what they can do to protect themselves from this breach. By going through any of the above you can help get yourself in a better position if your information was compromised. By no means can these steps fully protect you, but being proactive is better than being reactive. (For more, see: Identity Theft Protection Services: Worth Having? )