Equifax Data Breach

In light of the Equifax Data Breach, I wanted to write a blog explaining what steps you should take to make sure your credit is safe, as well as your sanity.  Over a month removed from the incident, I want to make sure to grab the attention of those out there who may not know the severity of the breach and how it could affect them.  Here is what happened.

On July 29th, 2017 Equifax first learned of one of the worst data breaches that had affected as many as 143 million Americans.  Almost have of the total population of the United States.  The issue with the Equifax Data Breach is not the scale of those affected but the type of information that was stolen by hackers.  Cyber Criminals may have had the opportunity to take very sensitive information which included names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and the numbers of some driver’s licenses. 

Why does Equifax keep so much information about U.S. Consumers?

Equifax, Experian, and Transunion are the 3 main credit bureaus in the United States.  Banks, Mortgage Lenders and Credit Card companies use these three credit bureaus to check on if a client has a good standing credit score.  Equifax is one of them. For example: Banks will want to know if a client pays their credit card on time, do they have any outstanding loans, have they declared bankruptcy in the past, or do they overdraft their account every month?  If a bank is going to offer a loan to a client, they need to know this information to make an informed investment decision on if a client will actually pay the balance of the loan back.  By default, Credit Bureaus carry a lot of personal, and financial, information about all U.S. Citizens.  The Equifax Data Breach should be a huge concern for everyone.  

How to find out if your information may have been compromised during the Equifax Data Breach?

Check Credit Card and Bank Balances:

If you have been effectively budgeting, you will immediately be able to tell what you did and did not purchase.  Another reason why it is imperative to keep a monthly budget.  If someone has stolen your credit card information from this breach, how will you know what you did or did not purchase a month ago?  Not all cyber criminals will use this information today.  They could use that information to spread $3,000 worth of purchases over 1 – 2 year time frame that that you may not even be aware of.  Cyber Criminals rely on this.  Learning how to create a monthly budget is imperative to help better navigate a situation such as the Equifax Data Breach.  How can you attest a charge if you have no idea what was charged?

Check with your financial advisor:

A great way for you to see if your financial advisor is relevant is to see if they have reached out to you already about this.  If not, then you need to reach out to them to see what adice they could give you.  If they have not done so, you may want to re-evaluate that relationship. 

Go to the Equifax Website

Go to the following link: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/

Equifax will provide you with recent updates on the Equifax Data Breach.  The latest from October 2, says that  2.5 million additional US consumers were affected.  However, you can utilize this website to actually check if your credit may, or may not, be at risk. 

Equifax Data Breach

The image above is of a screenshot of where you will find the “Am I Impacted” Link.  Click on it.

After following the link, and reading the information, you can click on “Am I Impacted”. 

I provided you with that exact link below that will take you directly to the landing page:

Equifax Data Breach

Once there you will be prompted to enter the following information

Equifax Data Breach

Unfortunately for me, my information may have been compromised and I received the following prompt

Equifax Data Breach

Hopefully for you, this is not an issue.  If it is, here is what I did to prevent any issues moving forward.  Make sure to click on “Enroll” to start protecting your identity.

TrustedID Premier:

This company is an American Identity Theft company owned by Equifax.  They are providing free monitoring services for any one in the United States.  If affected or not, I would highly encourage anyone to take advantage of this free service.  Depending on the severity of your issue, the process can take anywhere from 1 – 10 days.  

You can reach their customer service line:

866-447-7559.

They are open everyday, including the weekends, from 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM Eastern Time.

Should you freeze your credit?

A credit freeze could be a great idea.  The only issue that may arise is when you need a loan or someone is looking to access your credit.  If this is the case, you can simply lift your credit freeze, which may take up to 3 days.  A small inconvenience but a great solution for future issues. 

Below are the numbers to call where you can place a credit freeze on your account. 

Equifax — 1-800-349-9960

Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742

TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872

Once registered, they will send you a security code that only you will have.  This code will allow you to lift the freeze.  Make sure you don’t lose it.

Are there Credit Freeze Fees?

Yes.  I place a freeze on my credit and paid $10 each for Experian and Transunion.  Equifax is not placing any charges due to the data breach. 

Will the Equifax Data Breach happen again?

Moving forward, I think it is safe to say that all our personal data, at some point, has been compromised.  If it hasn’t been now, it will be in the future.  What the Equifax Data Breach has taught us is we all need to be in tune with our financial information.  Regularly checking our bank statements and actively monitoring our credit will be a necessity for all of us moving forward.  Cyber Criminals prey on the fact that people are not in tune with their financial information.   With so much information out there from the information we give to websites for online shopping, to the information we provide stores for special deals, makes us all easy targets for cyber criminals.  It is not a question of if there will be another data breach, but when and what information cyber criminals will steal.  Hopefully this blog has helped you protect your financial security and will help you prevent identity theft.

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