FRI, NOV 10th, 2017
With the recent Equifax security breach which affected approximately 145.5 million consumers, here are 5 things you can do to help protect yourself from identity theft:
1. Get a free credit report every year from each of the 3 major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). You can stagger them to get one report every 4 months. Review the reports for accuracy to make sure there are no mistakes or fraudulent lines of credit.
2. Setup a fraud alert. A fraud alert on your credit report will notify lenders and creditors to take an extra step of identity verification before opening a credit line in your name. Fraud alerts are free. Once you contact one of the 3 major agencies, they are required to contact the other two. Fraud alerts last for 90 days (1 year if you are in the military on active duty), but can be extended up to 7 years if you are a victim of identity theft.
3. Consider freezing your credit. If you freeze your credit no one, including you, can access your credit report to open new lines. You will get a PIN that you have to use each time you want to unfreeze and freeze your credit. In Utah there is a $10 fee for each credit reporting agency to add a freeze and an additional $10 fee each time you want an agency to “thaw” a freeze. There are no fees for victims of identity theft.
4. Sign up for credit monitoring services which notify you if a new account or credit inquiry show up on your report. Some credit monitoring services are free and others can cost up to $50 per month depending on the services offered. Equifax is offering 1 year of free credit monitoring to all Americans.
5. General good practices are to shred documents that contain personal information, make sure your devices are password protected, use strong passwords and PINs, and don’t be an open book online. Set your social media preferences appropriately and avoid volunteering information about yourself to people you don’t personally know.
The Equifax hack is not just a near-term issue; it will likely have repercussions for years to come. While we fully expect credit bureaus and other entities with sensitive information to aggressively pursue improvements in data security, we also recognize that hackers never sleep and will continue to create new tools and techniques to breach security systems. Unfortunately this means we will all need to be more vigilant in monitoring how our personal information is being used and disseminated.
Liz Bernhard, CFP®, MBA / Senior Wealth Advisor
Albion Financial Group