This was originally published on Monday, October 3, 2017, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
On July 29, 2017, Equifax discovered that criminals exploited its website applications. Equifax is one of three national credit monitoring companies. According to Equifax, the breach occurred from mid-May through July 2017.
Equifax’s website states “Most of the consumer information accessed included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers and certain dispute documents, which included personal identifying information, for approximately 182,000 consumers were accessed. Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted. We have found no evidence of unauthorized access to Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.”
If you want to know if your information has been compromised by Equifax’s breach go to http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Since you will be using personal information, be sure you are on a secure computer with an encrypted network connection. Once on the site:
- Click on the “Potential Impact” tab.
- Enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
- a message will inform you whether you have been impacted.
- along with the opportunity to investigate if your personal information was breached, Equifax is offering anyone with a Social Security number enrollment into TrustedID Premier till Nov. 21, 2017.
TrustedID Premier offers credit file monitoring and identity theft protection by:
- monitoring your credit score on all three credit monitoring sites — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — with automated alerts of key changes;
- providing you copies of your Equifax credit report;
- placmng a credit lock on your Equifax credit report to prevent access by third parties (there are a few exceptions);
- monitoring your Social Security number by scanning internet sites where consumers’ personal information is suspected of being bought and sold; and
- providing up to $1 million in ID theft insurance to help pay for certain out-of-pocket expenses in the event you are a victim of identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov, suggests that you can also do the following to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Check your credit reports. Check reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for free by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your files. If you decide to put a credit freeze on your files, a fraud alert will warn creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early. Do it as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at email@example.com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.