Equifax Security Breach - What Happened
Equifax is one of the big three credit reporting agencies in the United States. The other two are TransUnion and Experian. On September 7th, 2017, Equifax announced that they had negligently left unprotected millions of street addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth, etc. Then they conveniently waited a month to disclose it until the night before all the hurricanes were scheduled to hit so it wouldn't be as big in the news. And lastly their executive officers were allowed to sell off shares in insider trading in the days following the breach. Does this affect you? Have you ever applied for a credit card, taken out a loan, opened a bank account, or had a cell phone in your name? If so, CONGRATULATIONS, you are affected!
What to do now?
Step One: Get a free copy of your credit as soon as possible at annualcreditreport.com. Don't do credit karma or free credit report or any of those companies. The Federal government requires each of the three credit agencies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once per year upon request and only at annualcreditreport.com.
Step Two: Freeze your credit. Call Transunion, Equifax, and Experian and put a freeze on your credit. No one can run any credit on you unless you use the long PIN number given. Remember this when applying for a new car loan, house loan, etc, ask them when the credit inquiry will take place and undo the freeze for that short time and then refreeze again. Or if you are someone who needs frequent inquiry into their credit (like a student for instance) you want to set up a Fraud Alert instead of a freeze. Numbers to do a credit freeze:
They are automated systems so you can just put in your information and tell them you want your credit frozen. Good luck getting through Equifax's number right now. It's broken (see my previous comments re: terrible company) BE SURE TO WRITE DOWN THE PIN NUMBER THEY GIVE YOU! And be ready, they will rattle off that number quickly, be ready to write it down. Keep those numbers in a safe place.
Step Three: Opt out of all prescreened credit offers. Do you ever get that junk mail at your house that says, congratulations, you are approved for credit? Guess how they got your information? Equifax has been recording all the information about you and then selling it to secondary lenders (see my previous comments re: terrible company). But you can opt out of all of those by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT. Be ready for less junk mail.
Step Four: The freeze does nothing to your current revolving accounts so you will want to keep a regular eye on your credit report and watch your already opened accounts.
Step Five: File your taxes as early as possible next year. There are going to be a ton of fraudulent tax returns filed next year. If you have your credit frozen, and you monitor your current accounts the other option is your tax return. If you file first and it gets accepted first, then the other return will be rejected. The IRS does not verify identity on anything except the Social Security Number, so unfortunately next year will be a tricky.
Step Six: If you suspect any suspicious activity, alert the credit agencies as soon as possible as well as "XYZ Financial". We are here to help in all areas of your financial life so the sooner we can help, the better!
The proof is in the planning
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