The recent data breach at Equifax, one of the big three credit reporting agencies worldwide, highlights the fact that even companies in the business of holding and monitoring our credit information can find themselves victims of a security hack. In fact, it seems as if almost every day there is a story in the news about an online security issue. In addition to the huge numbers of individuals affected, this breach is uniquely problematic because the credit records exposed generally include broad and deep information giving a full picture of each consumer, often including details used by other firms for verification.
There are actions you can take to reduce the possibility and impact of fraud. However, the media is full of conflicting advice and anecdotal solutions.
The Equifax data breach took place between mid-May and July, although it was not reported publicly until September, and affected about 143 million consumers, or more than half of Americans age 18 or older. If you are worried that you might have been affected, what can you do?
- Get free copies of your credit reports from EACH of the three major credit reporting agencies through www.annualcreditreport.com. Review carefully for any unknown accounts. It’s a good idea to check at least annually
- Check if you’re one of the 143 million on a site set up by Equifax, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. This is how you can access the free credit monitoring service
- Enroll for a free year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection through TrustedID Premier, which monitors Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, by clicking “ENROLL” at the bottom of the www.equifaxsecurity2017.com page. This puts you in the queue to sign up. It does not require a credit card and will NOT auto-renew for a fee in 12 months
- Continue to monitor your personal information and accounts, looking out for any suspicious activity
- Set up a 90-day fraud alert with one of the three major credit reporting agencies (they share these alerts) and with your credit and debit cards, so you will receive an alert if someone tries to apply for credit in your name. Mark your calendar to renew the credit bureau fraud alert in December
- Put credit freezes on your accounts with EACH of the three major credit reporting agencies, which prevents a company from accessing your credit reports if someone tries to apply for credit using your personal information. Keep in mind, however, that if you want to apply for any type of credit, you will need to contact these three agencies to temporarily unlock your freeze
Equifax also has a dedicated call center that you can reach at 866.447.7559 7:00 am to 1:00 am ET seven days a week for additional questions that you may have.
At Klingenstein Fields Advisors (KF Advisors), we are attuned to events and developments in cybercrime. We always keep an eye out for any suspicious or unusual activity in your KF Advisors accounts and coordinate with your custodian’s security efforts and procedures. If you think you may have been the victim of a security intrusion, please contact us immediately at 212-492-7000, and we will help you with additional guidance and information on what to do and who to contact.
We hope you will join us for a presentation on Cybercrime and Fraud Prevention on October 19, 2017 from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm at the Harvard Club, 35 W 44th Street in New York. Our special guest expert, Michelle Thetford, Vice President of Client Strategic Solutions at Charles Schwab Advisor Services®, will discuss the online environment today, different types of fraud and ways to minimize risk and respond to potential threats.