On September 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the largest consumer credit agencies, announced that a data breach potentially affecting 143 million U.S. consumers. The data breach included Social Security numbers, names, addresses, driver’s license numbers, dates of birth, and in some cases, credit card numbers.
Equifax has published a web page for consumers to visit and determine if their information was included in the breach https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. If you have not done so, you should visit the site as soon as possible. If your information has been compromised, Equifax has extended a year of credit and identity monitoring as well as insurance coverage to those involved.
It is important to note that while there are millions of people whose information has been compromised, very few have actually become victims of identity theft at this time. Taking proactive steps to monitor and secure your identity are of the utmost importance.
There are several things you can do to watch for fraud at this time:
- Monitor your financial transactions. Monitor the activity in your financial accounts, look out for any charges that don’t seem to be yours.
- Review and Report suspicious transactions immediately. If you see something that doesn’t look right, such as a transaction you do not recognize, contact the account issuer immediately.
- You can also visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website identitytheft.gov to obtain more information on protecting against identity theft.
Whether you believe your Identity has been stolen or you are simply concerned about taking proactive steps to monitor and secure your identity. Here are additional steps to consider if you’re impacted by the Equifax Breach, many of which are good practices for anyone:
- Check your credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com. Follow the instructions to order your annual credit report online, by mail, or by phone, directly from the credit bureaus. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file. Once you place a fraud alert with one bureau, they will alert the other two. Please visit the following link to do so. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
- Place authentication features on financial accounts. Ask your bank to require a password or pin to complete account transactions. Often fraudsters will call financial institutions to try to wire transfer funds, order new cards or change your address.
- DMV alerts. Next time you visit the DMV, ask if they can place a fraud alert on your driving record.
- Set up an account at ssa.gov/myaccount. Setting up an account with the Social Security Administration allows you to monitor your annual earnings to ensure a fraudster is not using your SSN for employment purposes. Setting up the account also ensures a fraudster doesn’t set up the account to gain further access to your information.
- Security Freeze. Placing a Security Freeze with the credit bureaus locks your credit, making it inaccessible to creditors. When you place a Security Freeze, the bureaus will send you a confirmation pin number that will be used to lift your freeze. We recommend only lifting the freeze temporarily when you need to use your credit. You can remove the freeze on the credit bureaus’ websites. This must be done through each individual credit bureaus. Go to https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs for more information on how to place a security freeze.
- File an IRS Affidavit. Alert the IRS of your compromised information by filling out the IRS Affidavit at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14039.pdf
- Chex Systems Alerts. You can place an alert with chexsystems.com to alert banks and financial institutions of your compromised information. This will help keep fraudsters from opening bank accounts in your name.
- Change all your passwords regularly. Smart account management should include complex passwords that are changed regularly. Consider making your passwords on any financial accounts different than your email passwords, and make them as intricate as possible by including letters, numbers and symbols. Place authentication features such as passwords and pins that are required to complete such actions as address changes, account updates, wire transfers or ordering new cards.
- Beware of phishing emails. Once fraudsters gather identifying information, they usually send official-looking texts, emails or phone calls to gather more data. If you click on a link or respond to a text from an unfamiliar source, it may allow the fraudster to implant malware or viruses on your phone or computer. Never click on any links in emails or respond to unknown senders of text messages. If you receive something of concern that looks official, go to that business’s secure website to get the correct phone numbers to call and inquire about messages you have received.
- Beware of phone scams. If you receive a call from a bill collector or other source soliciting you for money on a past due bill, you need to validate the debt. A recent scam involved fraudsters pretending to be the IRS and collecting thousands of dollars from victims that had their personal data compromised. Always confirm debts with creditors directly and remember that most of the time you should receive a letter in the mail before a phone call.
- If you are a BaZing user and suspect identity theft, contact BaZing to be connected with a fraud resolution specialist.
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