On Sept. 7, credit bureau Equifax announced it discovered a data breach, which gave hackers access to personal information on about 143 million U.S. consumers, plus that of some Canadian and U.K. citizens.
The data breach lasted from mid-May through July. Hackers could see names, dates of birth, addresses, Social Security numbers and some driver’s license numbers. Further, about 209,000 U.S. consumers’ credit card numbers and about 182,000 U.S. consumers’ dispute documents –
which contain personal identifying information – were accessed.
In short, hackers may have accessed enough information to open unauthorized accounts or lines of credit.
Consumers can protect themselves by taking matters into their own hands. Here’s what you can do to keep your personal and financial information under wraps:
Step 1: Find out if you were affected
Equifax created a website – www.equifaxsecurity2017.com – so consumers could determine if they were one of the 143 million whose personal information was accessed. The site requires your last name and the final six digits of your Social Security number.
Whenever you’re entering sensitive information – partial Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, or answering any security questions – it’s not wise to be on a public Wi-Fi network. Do this at home or on a secure network you trust; the hotspot at your favorite cafe doesn’t count.
Security blogger Brian Krebs wrote that some consumers found that, after entering the same information at different times, received different results. Krebs notes that it might be prudent to just assume that you are one of the many who were affected.
Step 2: Pull your credit report
There’s an easy way consumers can find out if someone has tried to open an account or line of credit in their name. This is through annualcreditreport.com, a website mandated by Congress so that consumers can access one free credit report every year from each of the major three credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
Everyone should make a habit of doing this anyway. Now is the perfect time to start if you aren’t doing this already.
Step 3: Sign up for credit monitoring
Equifax is offering free credit monitoring services to consumers through www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Krebs explains that these types of services alert you if someone steals your identity, but doesn’t prevent the theft from occurring in the first place.
Still, it can help you take the right steps in the aftermath of identity theft.
Step 4: Initiate a credit freeze
A credit freeze prevents anyone who has your personal information (yourself included) from opening an account or line of credit in your name. This is the most secure way to protect yourself from fraud or identity theft.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, to initiate a credit freeze, you need to contact each of the three credit bureaus individually by phone. Here are their numbers:
You’ll need to provide information like your name, Social Security number, address and birth date.
When you freeze your credit, you’ll receive a unique PIN. This is the key you’ll use to unlock your credit if you decide to open a new account. Keep this in a secure location.
If you have any questions about how this breach may affect the mortgage lending process, reach out to The Federal Savings Bank.
I specialize in helping clients purchase and refinance homes in all 50 states.
I can finance your primary residence, vacation home, and investment property.
Please call or email me today if I can help you or anyone you know!