Recent news that Equifax’s database has been hacked, exposing the highly personal and confidential information of at least 143 million people in the U.S. is cause for alarm. We are sharing the following information for our FWCEL Members to protect themselves. We thank Barbara Doran, Yorkbridge Wealth Partners, www.yorkbridgewealth.com for providing this valuable information to us.
According to Equifax, hackers targeted people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers. Equifax will send correspondence by MAIL to those who were exposed. The company has put a tool on their website to check your potential impact and has made a free credit monitoring service available to those affected.
If your information has been compromised by the Equifax breach, it could be years before your data could be used illegally, so you must plan to be diligent for the long term. This includes reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements along with your credit report for possible identity theft.
In the meantime, be wary of any emails you receive that are purportedly from Equifax and suggest you click on this or that link. The security breach is a perfect opportunity for fraudsters pretending to be from Equifax to prey upon the chance to steal your identity and compromise your computer’s security. The best thing to do, always, when you receive an email from any business who asks you to click on their link is to instead find the company’s website and follow any links you find there.
What can you do now?
1. Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Consumers are entitled to one credit report from each of the three reporting agencies each year. We recommend downloading a report from a different agency every three or four months.
- Download a report from Experian today, TransUnion in January, and Equifax in May to monitor your credit year-round without charge.
2. Stop pre-screened credit offers to limit future exposure by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
3. Place a CREDIT FREEZE on your accounts. While a credit freeze does not prevent current creditors from accessing your credit report, it does restrict the ability of new creditors to access your credit information. In other words, if you already have an account with your bank, an identity thief may still be able to open an account through your bank since that is not a “new” creditor.
- A credit freeze can temporarily be lifted and then put back in place if you are actively seeking credit.
- Take care of the PIN used when you freeze your credit as its needed to unfreeze the credit reports.
4. File your income taxes early each year and be sure to respond to any IRS correspondence immediately. Doing so will limit the ability of scammers to use your Social Security number to get a tax refund in your name.
- Scammers also use stolen Social Security numbers to apply for work, when arrested for crimes and infractions, to get medical care, and to steal benefits to which you are entitled.
5. If you discover you are the victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov to report and start your recovery plan immediately.