Last week Equifax, one of three U.S. credit reporting agencies, reported hackers stole data files that potentially compromised 143 million consumers. Let me restate that figure, 143,000,000!!! That means there is a 57% chance your information was involved in this hack (US Census estimates we have ~250 million adults).
Equifax reports credit activity; they are more than merely a credit card company. They are involved in nearly every major consumer financial transaction and account in the United States, so if you have any type of credit history (mortgages, credit cards, student loans, etc.) you owe it to your digital identity to take this very seriously. We are providing some tips and info to our clients so they can take measures to mitigate this potential threat to their identity.
The first step is to determine if you were affected. Go to Equifax’s ID Protection partner’s (Trusted ID Premier) web site, enter your last name and last 6 digits of your SSN. It will then conclude if your data was possibly compromised. I’ve read reports that this look-up tool may not be 100% reliable, so you may want to cautiously assume that your data was a part of the hack.
Next, you can sign up for 12 months of ID Protection that Equifax is offering for free. It includes credit monitoring, social security number monitoring, identity theft insurance and more.
You can take things one step further and sign up for free credit “freeze” and fraud alert with the 3 credit bureaus. This makes it harder for new credit accounts to be opened in your name without your authorization. Read CNet.com’s write up for more details on how to set these up.
Lastly, set a reminder in your calendar to file your taxes early in 2018. Often data hackers who obtain social security numbers will attempt to file phony-baloney tax returns and attempt to cash refund checks. Filing early will make subsequent filings from fraudsters submitted to the IRS flagged for suspicious activity.
The Blue Waters Group will help clients in the near future closely review credit reports pulled for transactions to identify any suspicious activity. We hope this unprecedented industry data breach will not materially impact you, but taking the measures mentioned here will help mitigate the complications that come with identity theft.