To Do In Light of Equifax Data Breach
Good Morning Relaxing Retirement Member,
As we discussed a couple weeks ago, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., experienced an extensive data breach potentially effecting 143 million Americans.
According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.
They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
When data breaches like this occur on a large scale, it’s hard not to feel nervous and violated.
I know some of our Relaxing Retirement members have taken the early steps I recommended. I thought it would be a good idea to provide you with a summary of all steps to consider going forward.
What You Can Do
- Was Your Information Exposed? Entering your name and the last 6 digits of your social security number at this Equifax link will let you know right away if your information was exposed: equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Click on the “Potential Impact” button on the lower left corner of the screen and follow the directions.
- Order a Free Credit Report: The three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union all provide free credit reports once a year. This will allow you to see any credit inquiries or requests for credit. Request one from each of the three agencies every four months.
You may either request your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com, or go directly to each agency:
- Add a Fraud Alert to Credit Reports: Each of these credit reporting agencies can place a fraud alert on your credit for 90 days, and they are required to notify the other two. In anyone attempts to apply for credit in your name, you will be contacted.
- Credit Freeze: As we outlined a couple weeks back, a credit freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit report, thus preventing credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your consent.
This does not affect your credit score.
However, if you are in the process of applying for a loan (auto, home, etc.), you will have to temporarily lift the freeze while they are processing your loan.
To place a freeze on your credit reports, contact any of the credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.
- Identity Theft Protection: As I wrote about earlier, Equifax is offering a free year of their TrustedID service which you can sign up for on their site above.
There are a number of other companies offering similar services such as Life Lock which you can obtain for a small monthly fee. All are designed to resolve any issues stemming from identity theft, and can definitely save you time and grief if your information is stolen and used.
- Suspicious Emails or Phone Calls: As you might imagine, hackers and fraud artists will try to take advantage of everyone’s fears to gain access to their personal information. Be on alert for suspicious emails or phone calls from these folks who will be out there “phishing.”
If you receive any phone calls, find out what company the person says they are calling from, hang up and call the company directly to see if they were making a legitimate attempt to speak with you. The same advice applies for an email—pick up the phone and call the supposed sender instead of replying or clicking on any hyperlinks.
- File Your Income Taxes Early: Here is an interesting one that is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to battle tax fraud. These same thieves are known to use stolen social security numbers and other personal information to file taxes in your name in an attempt to have the refunds sent to them instead of you.
Can you believe this?
The first thing to do is file as early as you’re able each year as this reduces your risk of fraud as they won’t have time to beat you to it.
The second recommendation is an extension of one above. Beware of phone calls from folks identifying themselves as from the IRS. The IRS does not make random phone calls. They have only been known to do so after multiple attempts have been made to reach you through the mail.
If you have doubts about a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, hang up and call 800-829-1040.
Committed To Your Relaxing Retirement,
The Retirement Coach
P.S.: WHO do you know who could benefit from receiving my Retirement Coach “Strategy of the Week”? Please simply provide their name and email address to us at info@TheRetirementCoach.com. Or they can subscribe at www.TheRetirementCoach.com.
I appreciate the trust you place in me. Thank you! (The content of this letter does not constitute a tax opinion. Always consult with a competent tax professional service provider for advice on tax matters specific to your situation.)