How to Protect Yourself Post-Equifax Hack
September 10, 2017
On Friday, September 8, 2017, Equifax revealed publicly that their database had been hacked, potentially impacting as many as 143 million individuals. The announcement suggests that sensitive data, including names, addresses, social security numbers, birth dates, driver license numbers and credit card numbers may have been exposed.
This massive breach represents a serious threat of identity theft. In order to minimize the risk of this threat becoming a reality, we recommend that you consider taking the following actions:
- Visit http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/ in order to determine whether your personal information might have been compromised.
- Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Visit http://www.nextadvisor.com/credit_report_monitoring/compare.php for a comparison of available monitoring services. Note that credit monitoring can serve as an early warning system for fraudulent activity, but is not likely to be an effective tool for preventing fraud from occurring. Note also that Equifax is offering their credit monitoring service for free, as a result of the breach. You should be aware that there is some question regarding whether the acceptance of the Equifax offer for free credit monitoring might preclude you from participating in a future legal claim against Equifax.
- Request and review your free credit reports available at https://www.annualcreditreport.com and check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize. You can order a free report from each of the three credit bureaus once per year.
- Consider implementing a credit freeze. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account or loan in your name. If you place a freeze, you’ll have to lift the freeze before you apply for a new credit card or cell phone (or any other service that requires a credit check). Fees for implementing a credit freeze are typically $5 or $10. In order to implement a credit freeze you will need to call each of the following:
- Equifax – 800-349-9960
- Experian – 888-397-3742
- TransUnion – 888-909-8872
- Change your online passwords regularly for all banking and financial institution sites. Use complex passwords which include capital and lower case letters, numbers and characters. Wherever possible, employ two-factor authentication, whereby you will need both a password and an ever-changing number that you receive via text or e-mail in order to access your account.
- Never provide sensitive information over the phone to an inbound caller. If you receive a call from somebody who claims to be from the IRS, law enforcement, or another company threatening legal action unless you make a payment, simply hang up the phone. If you believe that it is possible that the call is legitimate, you should independently retrieve the appropriate phone number for the agency or company and call them yourself in order to make an inquiry.
- Do not discard documents containing sensitive data (social security numbers, account numbers, dates of birth, etc.) in the trash. These documents should be shredded. You are welcome to visit our office where we will shred them for you on-site.
- Be very careful about opening files online. Do not open e-mails, links, or attachments from unknown senders. These files can provide hackers with an open gateway into everything on your computer.
- If you believe that you may have been a victim of identity theft, visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/Info-Lost-or-Stolen for additional actions that you may wish to consider.
Finally, please know that we are here to help. If you have questions about security measures, please reach out to us via our website, or reach out to your account representative for further information.