We live in a society that places merit on virtually everything we do, from simple achievement, to life accomplishments, there lies some form of documentation of our lives.  The world we live in consists of oversharing our thoughts, food choices and lifestyle via the internet.  However, when it comes to our financial and personal identification, these are aspects we want (or should want) kept private.  We place our entire personal identification in the hands of three companies. TransUnion, Experian and Equifax are the three credit agencies that hold all of our financial and personal documentation.  This documentation includes our name, date of birth, social security number, address and even credit card numbers (to list a few).

Equifax recently disclosed that hackers had not only hacked into their systems but that the hackers had compromised the personal and confidential information for a huge percentage of people in the US. This is a high-risk situation that has left millions of consumers extremely vulnerable to identity theft.

Equifax has offered one year of free credit monitoring to all of their consumers until November 21, 2017.  Equifax is also providing their consumers with the ability to freeze their Equifax reports.  This, in theory, should prevent cyber hackers from being able to acquire credit under the consumer’s name.

How do you find out if you were affected by the Equifax Hack?

First, you will want to check to see if you are potentially at risk. You can do so by going to the Equifax Trusted ID website and filling out the requested verification form.  You will need to enter the last 4-digits of your social security number, along with your last name to gain access into the account.  The site will alert you if there is any reason they believe that your information was compromised.

Second, it is advised that you personally monitor your credit frequently moving forward. While Equifax is offering all consumers the option of free credit monitoring for a year, given the circumstances, it may be best if you also check your credit reports regularly yourself.  Everyone has access to a free copy of their credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year, and you can obtain that at annualcreditreport.com.

When you view your credit report, you will be able to instantly see what lines of credit are currently taken out under your name.  If you happen to notice that a line of credit has been unwillingly open in your name, you will need to dispute it.  Fraudulent activities that are on your credit report must be reported to each of the three credit agencies.  You can access the contact information for each credit bureau below:

          Equifax:  (888) 766-0008
Equifax Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374

          Experian Fraud Center:  (888) 397-3742
Experian
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013

          TransUnion Fraud Alert:   (888) 909-8872
TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Lastly, if you see any suspicious activity on your credit, it is advised that you freeze your line of credit and report the activity immediately.

          Are there any Red Flags or Warning signs that someone may be a victim of identity theft?

According to the FTC, yes there are.  If you happen to notice these occurrences happening to you, it would be best that you look into your credit reporting history as quickly as possible!

  • There are withdrawals from your bank account that you are unable to explain
  • You no longer get your bills or other mail
  • Establishments refuse your checks
  • You get calls from a debt collecting agency
  • You see charges or accounts on your credit report that are unfamiliar
  • You notice any medical providers bills for services that you did not use
  • Your legitimate medical claim comes back rejected due to your medical benefit limit being reached
  • Your health care plan refuses to cover you due to medical conditions that you do not have
  • You get notified by the IRS that you have filed more than one tax return in your name, or you have an income from an employer that you do not work for.

If ever you suspect that someone has gained access to your identity and opened lines of credit, applied for jobs, or any other suspicious activities, you will want to file an Identity Theft Affidavit and create an Identity Theft Report with the FTC immediately.  You can either file online, or you can contact them by mail and phone at (877) ID THEFT (877-438-4338) or toll-free at (866) 653-4261.  Their mailing address is 600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington DC 20580.

We sincerely hope that this information is beneficial, and that you were not affected by the security breach.

All the Best,

Lynda Drew

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The Choice Insurance Agency’s mission is to help you get from where you are to where you want to be financially by planning, achieving your plan and protecting your plan from unexpected events.  In the process, our goal is to deliver insurance services in a manner that exceeds your expectations.  See what The Choice Insurance Agency can do for you today. Give us a call at 757-416-5100 to speak with one of the licensed, professional members of our team or request a contact here. The Choice Insurance Agency. We’re on YOUR side. 757-416-5100.

 

**References for this blog:

Basak, S., & Surane, J. (2017, September 9). Equifax’s Insurance is Likely Inadequate for Breach. Retrieved from Bloomberg: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-09/equifax-s-insurance-said-likely-to-be-inadequate-against-breach

Bernard, T. S., & Cowley, S. (2017, September 8). Equifax Hack Exposes regulatory Gaps, Leaving Consumers Vulnerable. Retrieved from NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/08/business/equifax.html?mcubz=0&_r=0

Wong, K. (2017, September 13). How to Find Out if You Were Affected by the Equifax Hack. Retrieved from LifeHacker: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-find-out-if-you-were-affected-by-the-equifax-hac-1806121695