Here’s what is going on:
A huge security breach at credit reporting company Equifax has exposed sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers and addresses, of up to 143 million Americans. Unlike other data breaches, those affected by the breach may not even know they're customers of the company because Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting agencies that track and rate the financial history of consumers. The company gets its data from credit card companies, banks, retailers and lenders -- often without the consumers’ knowledge.
The data breach is among the worst ever because of the number of people affected and the sensitive type of information exposed. According to Equifax, the information exposed in the breach is more than enough to cause people some serious problems — with criminals gaining unauthorized access to consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers.
On top of that, hackers were able to access credit card numbers belonging to more than 200,000 U.S. consumers, along with “certain dispute documents” that contain personal identifying information for another 182,000 consumers.
How does it affect you?
Equifax is proposing that customers sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection. It is giving free service for one year through its TrustedID Premier business, regardless of whether you've been impacted by the hack.
To enroll and/or check whether you were affected, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Check Potential Impact tab. You'll need to provide your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once submitted, you will receive a message indicating whether you've been affected. If you’ve been affected, using the TrustID option is step one. In addition to that, we would suggest looking more closely at the “security freeze” option.
A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or “pull” your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand. With a freeze in place on your credit file, the ability to open fraudulent accounts by identity thieves is eliminated. A credit freeze seals your credit reports and provides a personal identification number (PIN) that only you know and that must be used to temporarily “thaw” your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed. So even if criminals try to use your info, they won’t be able to do anything with it.
What we’re doing about it:
If you find that you’ve been impacted by the Equifax breach, please contacts us. Gap Financial will provide you the step-by-step resources to freeze your credit. We will also walk you through the process to check your recent credit history to see if any unauthorized accounts have been open in your name.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. For additional resources see: https://www.identitytheft.gov/Assistant