Tuesday, September 26, 2017
In several of my last client meetings I have been asked about the impact of the most recent large data breach that was reported in the news. On Sept. 7, 2017, Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting agencies, announced a massive data security breach that exposed vital personal identification data, including names, addresses, birth dates, and Social Security numbers of as many as 143 million consumers.1
For reference, this is more than half of the people over age 18 in our country.
One of the disturbing issues with this is that we as consumers don t choose to do business with or share our data with Equifax, rather Equifax along with TransUnion and Experian, the other two major credit reporting agencies unilaterally monitor our financial information and sell that information to potential lenders without our approval or consent.
Additionally, the breach actually happened in July, waiting more than six weeks to publicly disclose the breach. To make their public relations situation even worse, apparently, some executives sold their shares of stock before making the disclosure to the public.
The FBI and Congress are now on the case and the odds are probably high that your information was part of the breach, so the question is what can you do about it?
Equifax has set up a website where consumers can check if they ve been affected by the breach. The web address is equifaxsecurity2017.com. Once on the site, click on the button Potential Impact and continue to follow the instructions.
Regardless of whether your information was released, everyone has the option of enrolling in one year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection. You will find that you will have to provide much of your personal information online to this group as part of this process. Obviously, this is just a little ironic since this company was the one that was not able to protect the information they already have about you from getting hacked.
The bottom line is that it is always a good idea to monitor your own personal information and be on the lookout for identity theft. You can enroll in fraud alerts with the three major credit reporting agencies. You can initiate a credit freeze.
A credit freeze will lock your credit files so that only companies you already do business with will have access to them. There is a fee for this service and if you ever want credit from a company you do not do business with you have to opt out of the service.
You should always review your bank and credit card statements and look for any transaction that does not look correct. The last thing I would suggest is that you obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies once every 12 months. You can do this by going to annualcreditreport.com or by calling toll-free (877) 322-8228.
The bottom line is that you should consider some alert features so that you are notified when suspicious activity is detected.2
1 - The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2017
2 - The opinions expressed are subject to change with economic and market conditions. They are not meant as investment advice. Forward looking statements and market forecasts cannot be guaranteed and may not come to pass.