How to Protect Your Identity After the Equifax Data Breach
Most of you are probably aware of the massive Equifax data breach. I wanted to let the media frenzy simmer down a bit, but it’s an issue worth addressing because the scope of this breach is unprecedented.
The Equifax data breach compromised the Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and credit card information of up to 143 million consumers. That’s about 44 percent of the U.S. population.
Please be aware: Your information has not been compromised in any way at Bodnar Financial. Our broker-dealer (Cambridge Investment Research) and our various money managers (Frontier, ICON, Vanguard, SEI, WBI, etc.) have also confirmed their data is secure.
However, your personal information could still be affected by the Equifax breach. Regarding action steps, I can only suggest to you what I have done for myself:
Consider a LifeLock membership
Karen and I are enrolled in LifeLock at the special Bodnar Financial discounted rate. LifeLock monitors your personal information and alerts you to any potential threats or suspicious activity. If your identity is stolen, they help you with damage control, and even replace stolen funds up to a certain limit. If you are interested in enrolling in LifeLock via Bodnar Financial, you can learn more here.
Run a credit report
We also check our credit reports each year. You can do this for free at www.annualcreditreport.com. If you see any weird accounts or activity on the report, it could be identity theft.
When a major data breach occurs, identity theft doesn’t necessarily happen right away. There have been incidents of ID theft that happen months, or even years, after a data breach. You should get into the habit of regularly checking your credit report. (For a helpful reminder, add it as a recurring calendar appointment alongside your annual financial review.)
Consider freezing your credit
If you are losing sleep over the Equifax scandal, you may consider freezing your credit– a step I have not personally taken yet, but am seriously considering. Freezing your credit won’t prevent criminals from using your current accounts, but it can stop them from opening up new credit cards in your name.
Each credit bureau provides you with a PIN number that will be required to access your credit file. This added layer of security is a clear upside, assuming you don’t lose the PIN numbers. There is a downside: Credit freezes can be tedious when you’re applying for more credit. Lifting a freeze could take a few days, and require you to pay a fee with each request.
For example: if you try to open a new bank account, or a department store offers you 30 percent off your entire purchase by opening a store credit card, a credit freeze will likely prevent you from taking advantage of spontaneous deals.
If you decide to freeze your credit, you must contact all three major credit bureaus separately: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You may want to consider freezing your credit with Innovis too. Here are the numbers to call:
You can also try these websites, although there have been many reports of error messages:
If you have any other concerns regarding data security or identity protection, please contact the office: 973-966-6939. In the meantime, keep calm and check your credit report!