As you have likely heard, Equifax, one of the nation’s three main credit reporting agencies, announced last week it was the victim of a major hack that exposed the personal information of at least 143 million Americans. Hackers were able to gain access to consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license and credit card numbers.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself given the recent events:
- Consider putting a credit freeze on your record at all three of the credit reporting agencies. For a small fee, you can “freeze” your records from being accessed by anyone. This will prevent anyone from being able to open a credit in your name and is the most effective tool at preventing credit fraud. There is no impact on the use of your existing credit cards and other lines of credit when a freeze is in place.
Here are the links for each credit reporting agency on how to put a freeze on your account:
- Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Experian: http://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/preventing-fraud/security-freeze/
- TransUnion: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp
- Sign up for a credit monitoring service. Credit monitoring will not prevent criminals from fraudulently opening accounts in your name but it will allow you to monitor your credit for unauthorized activity. Equifax has offered one year of monitoring for free for all Americans. They have also clarified that signing up for this service will not exclude you from being able to participate in a class action law suit in the future. Credit Karma and Capital One’s Credit Wise are other free services that are available.
- Request a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com and check for any activity you don’t recognize. You are entitled to one report per bureau annually so one strategy is to request a credit report from one of the three bureaus every 4 months.
- Closely monitor your credit card statements for unusual activity.
- Be especially vigilant regarding scams in upcoming months:
- Avoid any links in emails supposedly from any of your financial institutions; go directly to their website instead
- Ignore text messages and phone calls from numbers you don’t recognize
- File your taxes early ahead of any potential scammers
- The IRS typically initiates contact via regular mail; disregard any threatening phone calls supposedly from the “IRS” https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-to-know-its-really-the-irs-calling-or-knocking-on-your-door-0
- Add two-factor authentication to your online access to your bank and Schwab. Two factor authentication, as well as voice ID, can be added to your Schwab account by contacting Schwab Alliance at 1-800-515-2157.
More information on how to protect yourself can be found at:
Please contact your financial advisor with further questions and concerns.