Equifax Data Breach Pt. II – Protect Your Identity

With the recent Equifax data breach, your awareness to credit monitoring and security may be heightened. Besides signing up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring, here are some additional suggested steps from industry experts:

  • Request your credit reports – You are entitled to a free credit report from Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union every 12 months (www.AnnualCreditReport.com).
  • Consider implementing a credit freeze on all three credit reports – freezing your credit reports locks down your Social Security number on your credit report, preventing criminals from opening new lines of credit under your name. Consumers can temporarily remove the freeze when they want to buy a house or take out an auto loan and then enable it again once they have been approved. There are pros and cons to this so researching this step is recommended.
  • Change Passwords – Using strong, unique, regularly updated passwords helps reduce the value to fraudsters of passwords stolen in a data breach or through malware.
  • Monitor credit cards and other accounts such as checking – Be alert for online transactions as EMV makes fraud at physical stores more challenging, fraudsters are moving to target online merchants. HFCU offer alerts for online transactions. These can help quickly detect fraud.
  • Be cautious on giving out information – Refrain from giving out personal information over the phone or through email. Also, be wary of clicking on links within emails.

Even if you find you were not part of the 143 million affected this time around, it is evident that fraudsters will never give up. In light of this, here are a few more recommended precautions:

  • Be smart on social media -Review your social media security settings to make sure that your profile is only visible to friends and connections.
  • Protect online shopping accounts -With fraud moving online, accounts with online shopping sites are easy targets.
  • Sign up for account alerts – HFCU provides our members with the option to receive notifications of suspicious activity. HFCU also offers Fraud Defender, an identity protection service which provides regular monitoring of your credit reports for suspicious new accounts and screening for sale of personal information on the dark web.
  • Seek help as soon as fraud is detected -The quicker a financial institution, credit card issuer, wireless carrier, or other service provider is notified that fraud has occurred on an account, the sooner these organizations can act to limit the damage.

Cyber criminals have stolen 143 million credit records in the recent hacking scandal at big-three credit bureau Equifax. At this point you have to assume that the bad guys have highly personal information that they can use to trick you. You need to watch out for the following things:

  • Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised.
  • Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information
  • Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union
  • Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen

Here are 5 things you can do to prevent identity theft:

  1. First sign up for credit monitoring (there are many companies providing that service including Equifax but we cannot recommend that)
  2. Next freeze your credit files at the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Remember that generally it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. Advice for how to file a freeze is available here on a state-by-state basis: http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/
  3. Check your credit reports via the free annualcreditreport.com
  4. Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity
  5. If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, here is a site where you can learn more about how to protect yourself: www.idtheftcenter.org. You can also call the center’s toll-free number (888-400-5530) for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All of the center’s services are free.