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How to handle the Equifax breach

September 18, 2017

 

The first thing to keep in mind is that the breach occurred from sometime in May 2017 until it was discovered at the end of July 2017 and was finally revealed to all of us on September 7, 2017. Information that is believed to be compromised includes social security numbers, dates of birth, home addresses and in some cases driver’s license numbers and other identifying information.  (see “How to Keep Your Online Brokerage Account Safe,” Barron’s Septemer 18, 2017, p. 23).

Perhaps the most concerning use of this information may be to open credit card or other loan accounts in your name.  While you may be protected from credit card fraud, you may have to spend a lot of time and money to untangle the problems resulting from this.

For those concerned, the first thing to do is get a current credit report from all three reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to see if there is any unusual activity on any of your accounts and to be sure you are aware of all outstanding credit balances shown.  These reports which are usually free once a year and can be obtained from each reporting company’s website.

You should go to the Equifax website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and check to see if your information was “potentially impacted.”  If it was then you can enroll in one year free credit monitoring from Equifax’s credit monitoring service. Alternatively, you could go to one of a number of credit monitoring services not owned by Equifax.  Other suggested actions include putting a fraud alert on your accounts or freezing your credit reports. For your information, we have listed below information from the Federal Trade Commission on what a credit freeze will do for you.

Easy steps to take right away include putting alerts / notifications on all of your bank and credit cards so that you know immediately of any unauthorized or suspicious use of your accounts. This can usually be done in a few minutes by visiting your bank or credit card online account and selecting the appropriate alerts to be sent to you via email or text. Strengthening passwords and adding two-factor authentication (using your cell phone) may also be helpful in protecting your financial accounts.

Another step that should be taken is to file your income tax returns as soon as possible.  This lessens the risk of someone filing a fraudulent return using your social security number. While this risk has been somewhat moderated recently with steps taken by the Internal Revenue Service, this is one problem that you do not want to have.

 

From Federal Trade Commission Website (September 2017)

If you’re concerned about identity theft, those reported mega-data breaches, or someone gaining access to your credit report without your permission, you might consider placing a credit freeze on your report.

·         What is a credit freeze?

·         Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?

·         Does a credit freeze stop prescreened credit offers?

·         Can anyone see my credit report if it is frozen?

·         How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?

·         How do I lift a freeze?

·         What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

What is a credit freeze?

Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. That’s because most creditors need to see your credit report before they approve a new account. If they can’t see your file, they may not extend the credit.

Does a credit freeze affect my credit score?

No. A credit freeze does not affect your credit score.

A credit freeze also does not:

·         prevent you from getting your free annual credit report

·         keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. But if you’re doing any of these, you’ll need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or for a specific party, say, a potential landlord or employer. The cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance.

·         prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.

Does a credit freeze stop prescreened credit offers?

No. If you want to stop getting prescreened offers of credit, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or go online. The phone number and website are operated by the nationwide credit reporting companies. You can opt out for five years or permanently. However, some companies send offers that are not based on prescreening, and your federal opt-out right will not stop those kinds of solicitations.

As you consider opting out, you should know that prescreened offers can provide many benefits, especially if you are in the market for a credit card or insurance. Prescreened offers can help you learn about what's available, compare costs, and find the best product for your needs. Because you are pre-selected to receive the offer, you can be turned down only under limited circumstances. The terms of prescreened offers also may be more favorable than those that are available to the general public. In fact, some credit card or insurance products may be available only through prescreened offers.

Can anyone see my credit report if it is frozen?

Certain entities still will have access to it.

·         your report can be released to your existing creditors or to debt collectors acting on their behalf.

·         government agencies may have access in response to a court or administrative order, a subpoena, or a search warrant.

How do I place a freeze on my credit reports?

Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:

·         Equifax — 1-800-349-9960

·         Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742

·         TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872

You'll need to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information. Fees vary based on where you live, but commonly range from $5 to $10.

After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze.

How do I lift a freeze?

In a few states, credit freezes expire after seven years. In the vast majority of states, a freeze remains in place until you ask the credit reporting company to temporarily lift it or remove it altogether. A credit reporting company must lift a freeze no later than three business days after getting your request. The cost to lift a freeze varies by state.

If you opt for a temporary lift because you are applying for credit or a job, and you can find out which credit reporting company the business will contact for your file, you can save some money by lifting the freeze only at that particular company.

What’s the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?

A credit freeze locks down your credit. A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. For example, if you provide a telephone number, the business must call you to verify whether you are the person making the credit request. Fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, but they may not prevent the misuse of your existing accounts. You still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent transactions.

Three types of fraud alerts are available:

·         Initial Fraud Alert. If you're concerned about identity theft, but haven't yet become a victim, this fraud alert will protect your credit from unverified access for at least 90 days. You may want to place a fraud alert on your file if your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen.

·         Extended Fraud Alert. For victims of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your credit for seven years.

·         Active Duty Military Alert. For those in the military who want to protect their credit while deployed, this fraud alert lasts for one year.

To place a fraud alert on your credit reports, contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies. A fraud alert is free. The company you call must tell the other credit reporting companies; they, in turn, will place an alert on their versions of your report.

Tagged with: creditcredit freezecredit reportdata breachfraud alertidentity theft

September 2017

 

Ronald M. Riggs, P.C.* 5417 Georgetown Tr SW * Lilburn * GA * 30047
 
Phone: 404-276-0725