Last week’s article about the Equifax breach was so much fun, right? I mean, why not revisit it? Actually, there are some more pertinent pieces of information and recommendations you should be aware of. Let’s hope this is the last one on the topic.
- I want to be clear that a credit freeze will not protect you from anything in the past. It does not go back in time if your information was included in part of the Equifax hack. However, it will help prevent if someone tries to use your information to open accounts or anything where there is a requirement to verify your credit.
- Misuse of existing accounts is still a concern. Take the time to set up alerts on your various financial accounts, such as bank accounts. Also, set up multi-factor authentication if it is available to you.
- Be wary of phone calls and emails from your “financial institutions,” especially if they want personal information such as Social Security and your date of birth. Instead, go to the site directly or call the number on the back of your bank card.
- While not as popular, medical and employment identity theft does happen. Here is where it is important to do a regular check of your credit report and your Social Security account, all of which can be done online at no charge.
- Tax fraud is occurring more frequently. Be sure to get with your CPA and file early.
- If you know your credit will need to be verified you may not want to freeze your credit. For example, you are applying for either a new student loan or want to refinance a current loan. Or maybe you are applying for a mortgage. Finally, many employers will verify your credit as part of your employment offer.
- Double-check your PIN if you did a credit freeze with Equifax. Equifax’s process is they generate a PIN for you. Someone realized the PINs they were creating early in this process were just a time-stamp of when you made the request with Equifax. Not exactly what I would call secure. They now have changed it so randomly generated PINs were created.
A few final thoughts. I am hearing from clients their experiences with doing the freezes range from being able to do everything online to spending over an hour on the phone to having no luck. Please be patient and know you made need to go back a day or two later to get everything squared away.
Also, multiple clients have mentioned they either have or will be adding credit monitoring services such as LifeLock and they wanted to know my thoughts. I have never had a service like this, however, I will be adding one. These services do not prevent the theft of your identity, however, they monitor various sites to alert you if your information has been compromised. Some then help to get your accounts corrected if you are a victim of identity theft and may pay for things such as fees to process correction paperwork or cover lost wages. Be sure to read the fine print with any of these services.
Finally, it appears the Social Security Administration gave Equifax a $10 million contract to help them “manage risk and mitigate fraud on the mySocialSecurity portal.” They seriously had access to the SSA system too? Ughhh! Hopefully the Equifax execs who dumped their stock after they knew of the breach and before it went public bought some LifeLock stock. Let’s just hope they don’t get hired by them.
Again, this is a topic that is on quite a few people’s minds. Feel free to forward this to anyone you think may have a few questions or want to know more about this.