In September, Equifax reported a massive data breach. Hackers accessed the personal details – including names and Social Security numbers – of more than 145 million consumers from mid-May to July. It remains unclear how the data may be used. I’ve answered FAQs about the breach and what steps you should take to monitor and protect your information now and in the future.
The information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Furthermore, criminals accessed credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, and certain dispute documents with personal identifying information for approximately 182,000 U.S. consumers.
To determine if your personal information may have been impacted, you can visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. You will need to provide your personal information, including your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security Number.
Equifax is offering one free year of credit file monitoring and identity theft protection, which includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of your Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of your Equifax credit report; the ability to lock and unlock your Equifax credit report; identity theft insurance; and internet scanning for your Social Security number. You must complete the enrollment process by November 21, 2017.
The information is still helpful, and it’s always important to protect your information and take proactive steps to deter fraud and identity theft. Also, you can still enroll in the one year free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection from Equifax.
No. Equifax clarified the terms in the agreement do not apply to this incident and you would not be waiving any rights.
You do not need to choose a single option. We recommend choosing the ones that best suit your individual situation and credit activity. Details on each options and its advantages are below.
A fraud alert, also known as a security alert, is a notification that warns creditors you may be a victim of identity theft. Think of it as a “red flag” for third parties that may consider extending you credit. Fraud alerts are free, and still allow third parties access to your credit reports. However, if there is a fraud alert on your report, creditors are encouraged to take certain steps to verify your identity before extending you credit. Once you place a fraud alert with one of the three consumer reporting agencies, it will automatically be placed with the other two agencies.
Remember, an initial fraud alert only lasts 90 days, although you may renew them as many times as you wish.
A security freeze prevents any potential creditors from accessing your credit file unless you lift or remove the freeze, either temporarily or permanently. With a freeze in place, ID thieves can apply for credit in your name but few, if any creditors will extend credit without having access to your credit report. Security freezes are regulated by each state and use a PIN for authentication.
Equifax has waived the fee to add, lift or permanently remove a security freeze through January 31, 2018. However, the other consumer reporting agencies may charge to place or remove freezes. The freezes remain in place until you lift or permanently remove them. You will need to contact each consumer reporting agency to place or remove a security freeze. The contact information for each agency is:
Equifax | 800.685.1111 | 800.525.6285
Transunion | 888.909.8872
Experian | 888.397.3742 | 800.493.1058
In addition to three major consumer reporting agencies, Innovis provides data solutions for businesses including identity verification, fraud prevention, receivable management and credit information. They also provide individuals with credit reports, dispute resolution, fraud alerts, and security freezes.
An Equifax credit file lock is similar to a security freeze and allows you to lock access to your Equifax credit report. Lenders cannot access your Equifax credit file to open new accounts unless you unlock your file. However, when you lock your Equifax credit file, it does not lock your credit file at the other consumer reporting agencies. The lock feature is available within the complimentary TrustedID Premier product Equifax is making available to consumers.
You need to enroll for TrustedID Premier by Wednesday, January 31, 2017.
Furthermore, a new service allowing consumer’s direct access to lock and unlock their Equifax credit file. The service will be available by January 31, 2018 and will be free for life. Equifax is expected to provide more details about this soon. You can follow updates and information at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Yes. It is important to check your financial statements on a regular basis. You should review your statements and look for fraudulent transactions or unusual balances. You should also enroll to receive account transaction or card alerts via email or text message from your financial services provider. Online and mobile banking services help make it easy to frequently check your account activity. Immediately report any suspicious activity.
Periodically order a free copy of your credit report. The three major consumer reporting agencies must provide a free copy of your credit report each year — via a government-mandated site: www.annualcreditreport.com. You may also order a free credit report from Innovis. Take advantage of these free reports: Put a reminder on your calendar to request a copy of your report every 120 days; and report any inaccuracies or questionable entries if you spot them.
Yes that is the case. There are forms of identity theft that can’t be stopped by a freeze, monitoring or fraud alerts. That’s why it’s crucial to regularly review your financial statements and credit with consumer reporting agencies for any signs of unauthorized activity. You should also plan to file your taxes as soon as you have the tax information you need, before ID thieves attempt to file in your name.
Yes, you can. However, it may not be possible to sign up for credit monitoring services while a freeze is in place. Experts recommend signing-up for the free credit monitoring first, and then placing the security freeze.
- A personal recovery plan that walks you through each step
- Checklists to help update your plan and track your progress
- Pre-filled letters and forms to send to credit bureaus, businesses and debt collectors
- Reporting the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission
As always, our advisors are committed to helping answer your questions. Remember to immediately report any suspicious activity in your accounts.