As hurricanes worked their way across the South, another type of storm was happening online. As many of you have heard, Equifax, one of the major consumer credit reporting agencies in the US, had a significant data breach which compromised the personal information of approximately 143 million people. The compromised data may have included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers were accessed for around 209,000 people.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends that you visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to first determine if you were impacted. Click on “Potential Impact” and enter the last 6 digits of your Social Security number. Make sure you are on a secure computer with a private, preferably encrypted, network connection.
Regardless of whether your information was exposed, you can receive a year of free credit monitoring from Equifax via TrustedID Premier. Write down the date that the site tells you to come back and enroll. There was some confusion over the weekend regarding this step that has since been cleared up. You can still participate in legal action in the future if you choose to, the fine print no longer includes an arbitration clause preventing you from doing so. In addition, you will not be enrolled in an automatic renewal of the credit monitoring service after the free year has ended, as no credit card or bank account information is required to sign up. After one year, you can choose to pay for the service or simply let the service expire.
There are some other additional steps to take beyond what Equifax offers. Monitor your existing bank accounts and credit cards closely for any charges that you do not recognize. Check your credit reports from each of the three agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You are allowed one free report per year, so if you have already run a report this year, there will be a fee. File your taxes as soon as you receive your complete tax information to prevent an identity thief from using your Social Security number to get a tax refund. Consider placing a fraud alert or credit freeze on your accounts, which may help prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. More information regarding this is listed on the FTC website at www.ftc.gov as well as www.identitytheft.gov.
Diana Lormand, FPQP™ Director of Client Services
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