I am concerned about this recent Equifax breach. The breach effected 143M consumers. The breach started in May, and was not discovered until July. The hackers now have the ability to commit identity fraud with the data. So what is Equifax doing for us?
I tried to see if I was one of the affected people. I logged onto the dedicated website that Equifax established: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Outside of the requisite advice to change your password, FAQs, and a notice saying that Hurricane Irma can effect hotline wait times, they offered very little advice or help. This was no spoiler alert for me. With nearly half of the US population effected, I am not about to call and get in the queue.
Equifax is offering a free credit card monitoring and identity theft protection for a year. Big yawn! What happens after a year and the monitoring stops? I’m not sure, but I think that marks the bonus day that the fraudsters can start selling information, buy bitcoins in Saudi Arabia, seize tax refunds, or whatever else their devious minds think up. I guess the next question is: ‘why not just use the information at Experian and TransUnion and bypass the Equifax monitoring?’ Will Equifax start charging for the credit card monitoring when the 12 months are up? The thought of their turning this breach into a lucrative situation sickens me.
How so I protect my identity now?
One piece of advice is to monitor your credit and make sure you have not been compromised. You can check your credit reports free every four months at www.annualcreditreport.com. I tried to check my credit this morning. It didn’t work. The system is temporarily unavailable and they are “sorry for inconvenience.” I can handle this. I am hoping that their programmers are madly working to protect my information and come up with a better answer for security protection. I will return to the website, and I will check it in a few days.
When a fraudster has your information it is very difficult to undo the damage. How do I know? My 82-year old mother’s credit card was compromised and we experienced 7 months of hell, trying to get a few bail bond charges off her card and have her credit restored. I spoke with another woman who said it took 3 years to clear her records after an identity theft. And that was before this breach!
It is more effective to freeze your credit than to monitor it. What do I mean by that? Monitoring sends you an alert when your social security number has been accessed. This is hind-sight information. It’s kind of like a house alarm that tells you when someone may be entering your home, or has already stolen from you.
How can I keep a robber from finding my address? Freezing your social security number will prevent anyone from using your social security number. To freeze your information, go to www.innovis.com and register. The service is free. Innovis will mail you a password. You can never lose the password!!! Additionally you should never store a password on your computer or your phone – two places that are easily hacked. The down side of freezing is that you will not be able to use your social security number until you un-freeze your account. The process takes about 15 minutes. At any time, you can stop using the service, you may un-freeze the account for companies that you have an existing relationship with, or you can un-freeze it for a short period – say, while you are out shopping for a car or applying for a job.
I liken the freezing process to going through the airport security line – it’s annoying, it causes delays, and I don’t like it. The good thing about a credit freeze is that I can decide when I do and don’t want to go through that security check point.
Be aware of phishing scams and emails attempting to impersonate a credit agency. The will look official, similar in nature, and create a sense of urgency for you to click on their links. Don’t do it! If you think you want to communicate with the agency, it is best to go to their website or call them directly.
I’m annoyed with this breach. The upside it that it motivated me to take action and protect my information. I’ve known I needed to this and I’m feeling good about it. The next thing on my agenda is that disaster preparedness box that I keep thinking about. More on that later…
Please let me know if I can help you or if you have questions.
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