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How to Protect Yourself in the Wake of the Equifax Data Breach

As you most likely are aware, on July 29, 2017, Equifax was impacted by a cyber-security attack that resulted in 143 million U.S. consumers being left vulnerable to identity theft. The information accessed in the attacks included names, Social Security numbers, Birth Dates, Addresses and in some instances, Driver’s License Numbers and Credit Card Numbers.

We at Forteris have put together a quick guide to getting informed about this attack, and beginning steps to protect you moving forward. This is in no way an all-inclusive guide, rather steps to take to begin getting ahead of this.

Equifax will send a notification by mail to those who were exposed; if you don’t want to wait, you have the option of visiting www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to learn more about the attack and how you may be impacted. At the bottom of this page, a button titled “Potential Impact” can be clicked to check if this data breach affected you.  It most likely did.  They ask for your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.  Many people are understandably uncomfortable going that route.  If so, you will need to wait for the notice in the mail.

Equifax has taken further action to provide one year complimentary identify theft protection and credit file monitoring services to all that enroll before November 21, 2017. No credit card information is needed to sign up and they will not charge you after the one year period. The terms and conditions have been updated to take out a “waiver of rights” clause that was included, but is NOT anymore.  If you choose to sign up for this service, you still retain the option of taking legal action.

Furthermore, there is a call center that can answer additional questions: 1(866)-447-7559 hours are 7:00 am – 1:00 am Eastern Time, 7 days per week.

The key will be to remain vigilant in monitoring your credit reports and financial activity on a regular basis.  All three reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) allow one free credit report per year.  If you rotate and get one every four months, that covers a year of monitoring.

You can place a fraud alert on your files.  This warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim.  Our understanding is that you only need to alert one of the agencies and they will let the others know.  Alerting all of them may be a hassle but might be worth your time to avoid a bigger issue in the future.  Once an alert has been placed, a creditor must verify the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name before your credit information is released.  Fraud alerts are only good for a limited time and must be renewed.

You can also place a credit freeze on your accounts.  In basic terms, freezing your credit means placing restrictions on who can view your credit report. Why is this important? Well, applying for housing, checking accounts or new credit cards can all involve a credit pull by potential landlords, mortgage lenders or banks.  If you prevent them from pulling your credit, it’ll frustrate the fraudsters who need these organizations’ approval to open fake accounts using your stolen identity.  Freezing your credit comes with a $5 to $10 charge for each credit bureau, depending on where you live.  If you go this route, you will receive a PIN and it is critically important that you store your PIN in a safe and secure place.  If you were to forget it, removing the credit freeze will likely be incredibly difficult.

A further suggestion is to opt out of receiving pre-screened credit offers.  This can be done by contacting 888-5OPTOUT.  They are also warning consumers to be suspicious of any emails that are supposedly from Equifax that ask you to click on a link.  This breach is an ideal opportunity for fraudsters to pretend to be from Equifax in an effort to steal your private information.

The three agencies and phone numbers are: Experian (888-397-3742), TransUnion (888-909-8872), and Equifax (800-349-9960).

If you have been an identity theft victim, please be sure to alert us immediately.

Forteris Wealth Management is committed to privacy and will continue to do all we can to keep your information safe and secure.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at the office.

Best regards,