Equifax Security Breach and Identity Theft – The risk is real!September 19, 2017
The recent breach of Equifax is a reminder that we must all take steps to protect our financial information. In light of the breach, each of MUST act now.
You must consider a credit freeze or credit monitoring services. Quarterly checks of your Free Credit Report may not be enough. I learned about numerous attempts to access my personal information from the credit monitoring discussed below. Since I had the freeze in place, my information was not released.
Equifax and Transunion are offering free ID Theft Protection. If you sign up for these products, you can easily freeze and unfreeze your credit without paying a fee each time. There may be a 24-hour delay but that is easily worked within the event you need credit.
Equifax is offering TrustedID Premier free if your information was part of the breach. In some cases, they are offering it even if your information was not part of the breach. You have to go thru their steps to get it, but once you have it you can freeze your credit without paying a fee. Go to https://www.equifax.com/personal/ to check your risk and then follow thru with registration for Trusted ID. If you are uncomfortable using their protection program, you should go to their website and freeze your security report. They are supposed to be waiving their fee but even if a fee applies, it is well worth it.
Transunion is offering free enrollment in it TrueIdentity Identity Protection program. https://www.transunion.com/product/trueidentity-free-identity-protection
Experian is not offering anything free at this time. https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html The Experian cost for a freeze is $10.70 in Pennsylvania. If you are over 65, the fee for security freezes is supposed to be waived. Experian’s monitoring program requires a monthly fee. If you are enrolled in other creditor monitoring, you may decide not to incur the additional cost. Each of us must decide our level of comfort (and paranoia).
Keep in mind that once you have entered a freeze, you will not be able to obtain new credit which includes any process that checks your credit report such as a new cell phone contract, a store credit card, vehicle financing, etc. Existing creditors will still be able to access so you should be able to increase current credit limits but we are seeing issues with creditors requiring the freeze to be lifted.
It is important to not only check your and your spouses’ accounts but also take action to protect children and seniors. Children and seniors are particularly vulnerable.
Some other suggestions for the immediate future:
- Change ALL internet passwords – especially those associated with the use of a credit card. This includes ordering medications from your insurance company.
- Do not reuse any of these passwords – EVER.
- Your new password should be at least 10 digits and include uppercase, lowercase, and numbers. Do not use street addresses, phone numbers, dates of events such as birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc.
- Use an anonymous object or combination of letters based on a phrase as your password such as “Il10mfH”. The phrase to remember this would be “I live 10 miles from Harrisburg”. Obviously, this is not a great example but you get the idea of using a phrase.
- Do a google search for yourself. Anything that comes up should never be part of your password.
- Consider changing your login ID (where permitted) to something more generic than your name.
- Consider closing generic email accounts such as Gmail, Hotmail, ZOHO, Yandex, Protonmail, AOL and Yahoo and opening new accounts with better user IDs. If you retain existing accounts, update all passwords as discussed above.
Identity theft is real and we have always been at risk. The Equifax breach just makes it seem more real!