The recent Equifax data breach has affected up to 143 million people, according to Equifax. Consumers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have had their names, credit card information, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and social security numbers exposed. The breach occurred during the summer of 2017, and was reported to the public on September 7. At this point, it appears that the perpetrators exploited a flaw in the Equifax website programming, enabling them to access information that would normally be confidential. An investigation is being conducted by several federal government agencies into the cause and depth of the data loss. There is no doubt that the effects of this breach will haunt its victims for many years to come.
Through skillful use of stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII), criminals may take advantage of their victims in a multitude of ways: filing of fraudulent tax returns to steal refunds, conducting phony credit card transactions to purchase goods illegally, or gaining access to checking, savings, and retirement accounts. These are just a few possibilities; the wake of this activity will leave money lost and credit substantially
What can be done to protect your financial identity?
- Visit the Equifax website and check your exposure to the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
- Consider signing up for credit monitoring. Equifax is offering a one-year subscription to their Trusted ID Premiere service to people who are affected. Other providers’ credit services can also be used.
- Enable a credit freeze on all credit bureaus and a fraud alert in at least one bureau: www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, www.transunion.com, www.innovis.com.
- Check your credit reports for accuracy. Every consumer is entitled to one free credit report from each bureau annually: www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Review all of your bank accounts. Check balances, transactions, and contact information. Thieves may access accounts and change contact information to mask notification of unscrupulous activity.
- File 2017 tax returns promptly to prevent fraudsters from filing phony returns and collecting your refund.
- Create a login at the Social Security website, and review your Social Security information: www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
As always, make an ongoing habit of these best practices to prevent financial fraud:
- Regularly change passwords on all financial sites, email, and social media. Do not use the same password on multiple sites.
- Make sure the contact information on all of your website accounts is up to date.
- Enable two-factor authentication on all websites where possible.
- Review your financial accounts regularly. Confirm balances, transactions, and contact information.
- Beware of email phishing and malware attacks.
- Look out for payment card skimmer devices at gas pumps and ATM machines.
- Run anti-malware software on your business and personal computers.
- Opt out of pre-approved credit offers, direct marketing, and other unsolicited access to your credit reports: www.optoutprescreen.com, www.dmachoice.org, and www.donotcall.gov.
- Consult federal and state government websites for further information: www.IdentityTheft.gov, www.justice.gov, and https://oag.ca.gov/idtheft.
For more information about this article, please contact Norm Dubow at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 844.4WINDES (844.494.6337).