On September 7, 2017, news broke that a data breach occurred at Equifax. Equifax is one of the three credit reporting agencies that house consumers’ personal information. The stolen information was names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. All this information can be used to steal your identity. Additionally, credit card numbers for about 209,000 people were exposed and approximately 182,000 customers involved in credit report disputes had their information stolen.
Checking Your Personal Information
To find out if your personal information may have been impacted, visit Equifax’s Cybersecurity Incident & Important Consumer Information page and click on Potential Impact. You will receive one of two messages: ‘personal information was not impacted’ or ‘personal information may have been impacted’. Equifax is offering consumers the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier free for one year, which is credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Consumers have also been encouraged to freeze their credit to prevent unauthorized use of their credit. Freezing does not prevent scammers from using other personal information such as social security number or driver’s license number. Equifax will contact consumers by direct mail if their credit card numbers or disputed records were accessed. If you receive a phone call from someone saying they represent Equifax, beware, this is most likely a scam, Equifax will not be calling you.
Monitoring Your Credit Accounts
Whether or not you discover your personal information was impacted, as a consumer you need to be proactive by monitoring your credit accounts to make sure no one is using your information. The offer of free credit monitoring for a year is great, but once that year is over, you will either need to monitor on your own or pay for another year.
To monitor your information:
- Review all account statements including bank, credit card, medical explanation of benefits, and retirement accounts.
- Review your credit reports by going viewing your Annual Credit Report.
- Review your IRS account information at View Your Account Information. You will be able to see when returns were filed and which refund payments were made.
- Get copies of medical records from providers. Check regularly to make sure only providers you have used are listed and whether there are treatments charged to you that you have not received. Take advantage of secure online portals to regularly review the explanation of benefits.
- Get a copy of your driving record from the motor vehicle department to ensure no one has used your Driver’s License number fraudulently.
- Contact your mutual fund investment manager to learn about their fraud protection policies. Find out what is the policy if funds have been stolen.
Signs of fraud:
- You see accounts on your credit report that you did not open.
- There is incorrect personal information in your report.
- Credit inquiries from companies you did not contact are listed.
- An incorrect amount is listed for your accounts.
- Money is missing from your bank accounts.
- Bills you used to get in the mail are no longer being delivered.
Report unauthorized activity immediately. If bank or credit card accounts have been compromised, contact the account agency (bank). If your identity has been stolen, contact law enforcement.
Additional Resource: Data Breaches, Credit Freezes, and Vigilance