By now, many, if not all of you, have heard that Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, had a major cyber breach in which 143 million Americans had their names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and (possibly) drivers’ license numbers obtained by cyber criminals. The breach occurred during the period May through July 2017. In addition, 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 “other” documents containing personally identifiable information (PII) were stolen and are now for sale on the dark web.
The intent of this alert is to provide you information and resources to check if your PII may have been part of this breach and, if so, what steps you can take to mitigate fraud. Even if it is determined that your PII was not impacted, we strongly recommend all readers of this alert take the following actions to safeguard their PII.
Check if You Were Impacted
Visit the Equifax website to ascertain whether or not your PII may have been impacted (www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/). The Managing Partner of MFA’s IT Advisory Practice has confirmed this website is not malicious.
Request a Copy of and Review Your Credit Report
You can do this at www.annualcreditreport.com. If there are any items you do not recognize, you will have to have your information remediated.
Consider Placing a Fraud Alert on Your Credit File
A 90 day fraud alert can be added to your credit file. This means when a creditor tries to pull your credit report, they will see a Fraud Alert is active on your credit file. The Fraud Alert will inform the creditor you have been the victim of fraud and they need to perform extra identity checks. This includes calling you at the number(s) you submitted with the Fraud Alert to verify you are the person actually requesting credit.
- Equifax: www.alerts.equifax.com or 800-525-6285
- Experian: www.experian.com/fraud or 888-397-3742
- TransUnion: www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert or 800-680-7289
Consider Freezing Your Credit File
You can freeze your credit file so anyone who tries to access it will be unable to do so without a PIN. When you need to access your credit file (for instance, if you are taking out a car loan, mortgage, credit card, etc.) you will need to contact the credit bureaus and “thaw” your credit file using your PIN. You can then “refreeze” it once you are finished. Keep in mind, if you lose your PIN, you will be locked out as well and there is a nominal charge to perform this activity, typically between $5 and $10 depending on the state you live in. Note: You have to freeze all three credit bureaus, unlike the above Fraud Alert where you can submit a Fraud Alert at only one credit bureau and they will alert the other two.
- Equifax: www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- TransUnion: www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
- Experian: www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
Consider a Credit Monitoring Service
Equifax is offering a free 1 year credit monitoring service with enrollment starting the week of September 11, 2017. However, at this stage, there is conflicting information on whether or not enrolling in this service waives any rights to take legal action. The other two credit bureaus offer credit monitoring services and there are many other credit monitoring companies available with varying levels of service offerings.
For questions related to matters discussed above, please contact us.