Everything You Need To Know About The Equifax Breach
In a recently revealed breach, the scope of which the country has never before seen, 143 million Americans may have had their personal information exposed.
Equifax, one the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, reported a massive data breach that lasted from mid-May through the end of July. Hackers were able to access people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even some driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers of approximately 209,000 people and dispute documents containing personally identifying information of 182,000 people. It wasn’t just Americans who were targeted – the hackers also got their hands on personal information of some UK and Canadian consumers.
Right now, the situation is still developing and there are many more questions than answers. Researchers are seeking explanations for the site’s outdated security system, an accurate number of those affected and the impact this will have on the future of credit reporting.
Meanwhile, though, people are wondering if they’ve been affected and what they can do about it. If you have any type of credit product such as a credit card, mortgage or auto loan, there’s a chance your personal information may have been compromised. Instead of panicking, though, it’s best to learn all you can about this data breach and then take the proper and practical steps toward protecting yourself against future damage.
If this sounds daunting, take heart – Weld Schools Credit Union is here to help! We’ll walk you through some suggested steps and clear instructions for what you can do now.
1.) Find out if your information was exposed
You can do this by visiting an Equifax created website for sharing information about this issue, equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name along with the last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by the Equifax breach.
Since your SSN is sensitive information, be sure to complete this step only on a secure computer that uses an encrypted network connection. Once you’re visiting the Equifax informational site, you’ll also find easy access to frequently asked questions about the breach. In addition, Equifax has set up a call center to assist consumers. The call center’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily (weekends included), Eastern Time. That number is (866) 447-7559.
2.) Sign up for free protective services
Whether your information was exposed or not, U.S. consumers are being offered a full year of complimentary credit monitoring and other services through Equifax’s TrustedID product. The site will provide you with a date to return and sign up for these services. Be sure to follow up on the designated date because the last day for enrollment is Nov. 21, 2017.
The protective program includes the following features: Equifax credit report copies; three-bureau credit file monitoring, providing automated alerts of any major changes in your credit reports; Equifax credit report lock, preventing third parties from accessing your Equifax report; Social Security number monitoring, which performs online searches of suspicious websites that may list your Social Security number; and $1 million identity theft insurance, which covers some expenses in the event of a stolen identity.
3.) Place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files (see paragraph below)
If your information has been exposed, consider placing a credit freeze on your credit bureaus. This will make it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name, though it won’t stop a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
Instead of a credit freeze, you can choose to place a fraud alert on your files. This will warn creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft, alerting them to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you.
Even if the Equifax site did not tell you you’ve been exposed, it’s always a good idea to closely monitor your credit card and financial accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
4.) File your taxes early
Tax identity theft is more common than you think. If your SSN was accessed in this breach, it’s best to file your taxes as soon as you have all the necessary tax information. Don’t let a scammer use your SSN to get their hands on your tax refund. Also, be sure to respond immediately to any letters you receive from the IRS, though be suspicious of any emails or phone calls claiming to be from the IRS, as the IRS will not initially notify you using such means.
The Equifax breach may be one of the worst the US has ever seen, but by taking the proper steps toward protecting yourself, you can minimize any potential damage.
Is there any downside to building and maintaining a high credit score?
Yes. It makes you more vulnerable to fraud and identity theft.
After carefully budgeting and paying your bills on time for many years, it can be frustrating to learn that scammers and thieves are out there especially searching for you. They want what you have. They want to steal your good credit for their own purchases, or to sell it to other scammers and thieves.
Honest people often have a hard time understanding how scammers and thieves think and behave in our digital world. And it’s easy to imagine the crooks only as people living in foreign countries, far away.
Having a home security system and anti-theft locks on your vehicles may be a matter of habit for you, but it’s possible you haven’t thought about protecting your identity as securely as your other possessions.
Even though protection from vandalism and theft is usually covered by homeowners insurance, most of us want to deter vandals and thieves from even trying to damage or steal our possessions. We don’t want to experience violation or loss in any way. And yet, our personal identity and good credit may be very vulnerable.
What Does Identity Theft Look Like?
Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of their right to control who is able to access their credit report. But, all three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, offer you the option to restrict access to your credit report. They also make it possible for you to decide when and with whom your credit report may be shared. It’s called a security freeze or a credit freeze, and it’s important to understand how that works.
Here’s a real-life example of a credit union member in Texas who didn’t know he had the right to restrict access to his credit report. He has a very high credit score, and without his knowledge, an identity thief who was also a resident of Texas was able to establish a new cellphone service and qualify for the purchase of a new vehicle using this man’s profile. The cellphone service was already established when the thief shopped for a vehicle online. But that was the beginning of the end of the crime spree.
Three different auto dealerships called the credit union member to verify he was, in fact, going to take possession of the car he’d arranged to buy online. They had found his legitimate phone number on his credit report. You can imagine this consumer’s surprise, not just the first time, but each time he got a call. Every dealership alerted the local police, who contacted the credit union member directly for more information.
Turns out, the identity thief was using the cellphone obtained in the stolen name, and also presenting a temporary, new Texas driver’s license in the stolen name. Both were obtained prior to his attempts to purchase a car.
The member was advised to call all three credit reporting agencies and put a freeze on his credit report. The identity thief still had his Social Security number, address and credit card numbers, but could no longer use them. The fraudulent cellphone account was closed, at no cost to the member, and the State of Texas rescinded the temporary driver’s license.
Without a credit freeze in place, the member would continue to be vulnerable to fraudulent use of his identity by the Texas thief. And he would be vulnerable to other thieves who may have purchased his credit report, as well.
How To Protect Your Identity With A Security Freeze
1.) Call Weld Schools Credit Union at (970) 330-9728 to report fraudulent use of your account or credit card if it has been breached.
2.) Call the fraud department of every credit card that is issued in your name. You don’t need to cancel the cards, just report the fraudulent use and announce your plans to set up a security freeze with the credit reporting agencies.
3.) Call each of the three major credit reporting agencies to set up a security freeze. Each has its own process, and there may be a small fee for the service, approximately $10 per agency.
Equifax – 1-800-349-9960
Experian – 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion – 1-888-909-9972
4.) Call each credit reporting agency whenever you want a particular vendor to access your credit report. This is called a “temporary lift” of the credit freeze for one vendor only. The permanent credit freeze remains in place until you choose to remove it entirely. There may be a fee for each temporary lift.
Making the choice to control who can access your credit report (and who cannot) gives you the most security possible, but it requires more work on your part, too. And it may involve occasional but nominal fees. The member in our story decided it was worth the time and small expense to control access to his credit report, because he never wants to go through identity theft issues again.
Starting September 2016 you will see mobile banking has received some enhanced features.
- Quick Balance
- See your account balances without logging in. You can also choose which accounts you want to see in the ‘Quick Balance’ view.
- Fingerprint Authentication
- Device specific in iOS and Droid. iOS devices running iOS 8 or later that support fingerprint authentication (iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6+, iPad Air2). Android devices that support fingerprint authentication (Samsung Galaxy S5 or above, Galaxy Note 4, Note Edge).
- Running Transaction Balance
- Now you can see the running account balance in the transaction history option. This feature allows you to view the balance remaining in the account after each transaction.
- Pending Transactions
- View the pending transactions
- Card Controls
- You may notify the credit union that you will be out of town using your WSCU Debit or Credit Card. If you forgot to call us, then you can let us know within the mobile app 24/7/365!
Your security is important to us. All applications have been tested and have multiple layers of security built in.
If you attend and complete a four hour driver safety class Spanish/English, you may be eligible for a discount on your auto insurance!
ID Theft Training
The key prevention step to reducing fraud is to restrict who you give your personal information to and why. Here are ten steps consumer can take to protect themselves
- Be cautious with your mail Promptly remove incoming mail from your mail box. Secure outgoing mail. Shred mail that has personal information, such as bank account or credit card information.
- Read your statements to make sure there are no unauthorized charges.
- Check your credit report three times a year to make sure no one has opened lines of credit under your name. To request a free credit report, call (877) 322-8228 or go to the annualcreditreport.com website
- If asked for your Social Security number at places such as a doctor’s office or Pharmacy, write it on a piece of paper so someone else doesn’t over hear you. Take back the paper and destroy it.
- Carry only documents that you need when traveling. If you have a passport, don’t take your social security card. If you’re using only one credit card, don’t take the others with you.
- Photocopy all important records in your wallet so you remember to cancel all accounts if your wallet is lost.
- If you’re going to a physician who already has your Medicare card, take a photocopy of the card with you and black out some of the numbers so you can present that at the front desk if asked.
- Reduce telemarketing calls by signing up for the federal do-not-call registry at (888) 382-1222 or visit the website of the Do Not Call Registry.
- Reduce junk mail by going to the DMAchoice.org website
- Eliminate pre-approved credit card offers by calling (888) 567-8688 or visiting the website for opting out of pre-approved credit card mail. www.optoutprescreen.com
Love My Credit Union offers WSCU members discounts
Love My Credit Union is a partnership of credit unions across the nation who have joined forces to give credit union members some special discounts. We are proud to be part of this group and be able to pass onto you more benefits of being a credit union member.
Currently, Love My Credit Union offers WSCU members discounts from GM, Chrysler, Thor Industries, Allied Moving and FTD Flowers. Please check out www.lovemycreditunion.org and start saving!
Are you FoolProof?
Ever wonder whom to trust when it comes to consumer information and financial literacy? Weld Schools Credit Union has the program just for you. We have formed an education and literacy partnership with a nationally known group of consumer advocates to deliver high-quality, free financial education and literacy programs to everyone.
FoolProof Solo teaches a college-age person, or even older adults with limited financial knowledge about the realities of money and credit. The modules are tough, interactive and interesting.
FoolProof for Parents and Grandparents involves parents and grandparents in their children’s financial education. All can be done at home, all web-driven, and taught by young people with whom kids can relate. These highly interactive ‘modules’ run about 45 minutes each, feature videos, music, and games. Each module concludes with a test and the results come directly to you, the parent or grandparent.
FoolProof’s CUHQ, a year-round, interactive website for young people ties everything together with great information that relates to what is taught in the FoolProof modules.
FoolProof Information Edge is an on-line newspaper that features videos, podcasts and breaking news.
Click on FoolProof to try out one of the free programs today!