From May through July, hackers exploited a website vulnerability at Equifax, one of the major consumer credit reporting agencies. If you have a credit report, there is a chance your sensitive and personal information including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers, may have fallen into the wrong hands. The stolen information could be used in tandem with passwords taken from other databases to commit financial crimes against you, reported a source cited by Consumer Reports.
While Equifax has established a website (www.equifaxsecurity2017.com ) and a toll-free number (1-866-447-7559) to determine if individuals are affected and answer questions, each service has already proven to yield contradictory results
We suggest that you do the following:
- Closely monitor your account statements and credit reports. Credit reports are available for free from each of the 3 credit bureaus, once per year. Stagger them to see one every four months. To obtain your free credit report online, visit annualcreditreport.com.
- Consider freezing your credit which will halt bad actors from opening loans or credit cards in your name. Equifax has indicated that they will waive their own fee to freeze credit using Equifax. Both TransUnion and Experian will charge a fee for this service. To put a freeze on your credit, contact each of the 3 credit bureaus as follows:
- TransUnion: 1-888- 909-8872
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960 - Online at freeze.equifax.com
- Set a free 90-day fraud alert. When a fraud alert is set, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. That, combined with the credit freeze, is a great way to keep your credit score secure. To set a fraud alert, contact just one of the 3 credit bureaus at the following numbers, and ask for an initial fraud alert:
- Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 - will report to all
- TransUnion: 1-800- 680-7289
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- Take advantage of the 1 year of free identity protection offered by Equifax using TrustedID. However, additional years of credit monitoring will likely be required and which, at this point, has not been offered by Equifax for free. If you are not interested in using Equifax’s TrustedID, alternatively, you should consider subscribing to an identity protection service such as LifeLock (lifelock.com) or IdentityGuard (www.identityguard.com ). To enroll in Equifax’s TrustedID, do the following:
- Go to equifaxsecurity2017.com .
- Click the “Potential Impact” tab followed by the “Check Potential Impact” button.
- Enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number.
- Read Equifax’s conclusion and click “Enroll”, regardless of the stated conclusion.
- Complete the registration form and click Continue. Alternatively, you may be given a date when you can return to the same site and formally register for the free TrustedID service.
- Please be aware that these steps have changed more than once in the past several days and may change again.
- Be aware of Equifax related phishing scams delivered via postal mail, email and phone which are likely being developed by scammers as we speak.
- Review additional information about consumer identity theft via the FTC website – ftc.gov/idtheft. Additionally, Equifax has provided a detailed set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which can be found by visiting https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/frequently-asked-questions/.
- Stay vigilant in monitoring your credit reports and account statements for years to come.
- Consider helping your less tech savvy loved ones, including the elderly, as appropriate, with the above steps.
While several state and federal authorities, as well as politicians at all levels, are now beginning to investigate this massive breach, the only immediate protection for you is to assume a defensive posture and engage the aforementioned steps.
Thank you for your continued commitment to HFG. We are all in this together.