The Impact of the Equifax Data Breach
Learn how it may affect you and what you can do to protect yourself.
As you’ve likely heard, an estimated 143 million Americans had their personal information compromised by a recent Equifax data breach. In fact, pretty much all Americans with a credit report were affected. According to Equifax, hackers took advantage of a website application vulnerability to gain access to confidential files.
The unauthorized access lasted from May through July and the information that was accessed by hackers includes people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers. The hackers also stole some credit card numbers and credit transaction dispute documents. This information could help thieves take out loans or apply for credit cards in your name.
Last year, according to Bloomberg, there was a 40 percent increase in data theft from 2015 to 2016. Given that almost all of our information is digital these days, this isn’t entirely shocking. This latest Equifax breach is an alert to all of us that we all need to assume responsibility for doing what we can to protect our personal information. Here are a few smart steps:
Consider applying for a security freeze with each credit reporting companies. A security freeze is when someone tries to use your personal information to open a credit card or get a loan, the credit reporting company will not provide information to the lender. You will need to contact each credit reporting company (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) to initiate a credit freeze. This will not affect your credit score and also does not prevent hackers from making changes to your existing credit accounts.
Check your credit report regularly. There are many websites that offer free credit reports annually from each of the three bureaus. Regular checks ensure you catch issues quickly. If you do find fraud, put fraud alerts on your credit report to inform creditors or lenders.
Register for transaction alerts for all of your credit cards. Customize these alerts so you get notified of any unusual or high purchases right after they are made so you can alert credit card companies immediately of any fraud.
Change your passwords regularly. Do not use the same password for every online account. Best practices also include not sharing your password or security question answers with anyone or keeping them on post-it notes around the house. If you want to write them down, place them in a locked safe.
Be suspicious. Thieves are getting more and more creative. Don’t provide personal information over the phone or click on links provided in emails that require you to access your account via an insecure site that isn’t familiar to you.
Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission is suggesting that people should file their taxes as soon as they can next year to try to avoid any potential scammers. Such a breach can lead to tax identity theft, which means not only can scammers try to retrieve your tax refund but also can potentially apply for a job using your personal information.
The potential consequences of such a breach can be damaging. Equifax has created a website, www.equifaxsecuirty2017.com, to provide consumers with information and help determine the impact. The company is offering credit file monitoring and identity theft protection free to consumers for one year, plus security freeze fees are temporarily waived.
Bayntree Wealth Advisors dedicates substantial time to ensuring clients have holistic plans that build financial health and wealth. To discuss concerns or ask questions regarding financial security or financial planning, contact our team with any questions or 480-494-2750.
Bayntree Wealth Advisors, located in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona, provides comprehensive financial planning and wealth management. The Bayntree team specializes in all aspects of financial health, including retirement planning, risk management, investment advice, tax strategies, estate planning and insurance.
Bayntree does not provide specific legal or tax advice. Please consult with your tax advisor or legal professional for guidance with your individual situation.
Investment advice offered through Bayntree Wealth Advisors, LLC, a registered investment adviser. Insurance services offered separately through Bayntree Planning Group, LLC.