As most of you are aware, Equifax is scrambling to deal with a catastrophic security breach, where the personal information (social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers) of 143 million Americans has been stolen. FineMark’s Cybersecurity Committee recommends all clients take the following steps to protect their credit:
- Freeze your credit. Freezing your credit is the only way to prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. Freezes will block your credit file from being disclosed to third parties without your permission. This service comes at a cost. Fees to place and lift a freeze vary by state and range from $2-$10. Visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs to learn how to freeze your credit.
- Pull your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union to see if anything has been opened that does not belong to you. Visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports to learn how to pull your annual credit report from each of the three bureaus.
In addition to freezing your credit and checking your credit report, there are other steps you can take to protect yourself from this data breach:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file. Fraud alerts can be used by those who have already fallen victim to identity theft or those who have been part of a data breach. It ‘flags’ your credit file so anyone running your credit will know that you have been a victim of identity theft. It also alerts creditors to take extra steps when verifying the legitimacy of requests. An initial fraud alert can be placed on your file for 90 days and can be extended up to seven years. Visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert to learn how to place a fraud alert.
- Consider credit monitoring services. No service can protect you from having your personal information stolen, but there are companies that offer monitoring and recovery services. They watch for signs that an identity thief may be using your personal information and can help you deal with the effects of identity theft after it happens. Equifax is offering one year of complimentary monitoring due to the breach. Visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0235-identity-theft-protection–services before making a decision on signing up for a monitoring service.
- Read more about the breach from Brian Krebs, American journalist and investigative reporter best known for his coverage of profit-seeking cybercriminals: https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/09/the-equifax-breach-what-you-should-know/.
If you have questions or concerns, please contact us.