Cyber theft has emerged as a serious and ever-growing threat in today’s world. Regarding the recent Equifax incident, we suggest visiting the website the company has set up, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to determine whether your information was compromised. Also, consider taking advantage of the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection Equifax is offering.
If you or someone you know has been the victim of a stolen identity, we suggest you consider the below steps to mitigate any potential damage.
1. Place a freeze on your credit to keep identity thieves from applying for credit in your name.
Contact each of the nationwide credit reporting companies:
- Equifax – 1 (800) 349-9960 or https://www.freeze.equifax.com/
- Experian – 1 (888) 397-3742 or https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- TransUnion – 1 (888) 909-8872 or http://transunion.com/freeze
You will need to provide your name, address, DOB, SSN and other personal information. Fees can vary, commonly ranging from $5 to $10. After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN or password. Keep this in a safe place. You will need it if you choose to lift the freeze, for which there may be a fee.
Each of the three credit reporting companies must send you upon request a free credit report, annually (annualcreditreport.com); consider staggering them, requesting one every four months.
A credit freeze does not:
- Affect your credit score
- Keep you from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance. However, if you do any of these, you will need to lift the freeze temporarily, either for a specific time or a specific party (i.e. employer or landlord).
- Prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. You will still need to monitor all bank, credit card and insurance statements for fraudulent activity.
2. Put a fraud alert on your credit report
Contact any one of the three credit reporting agencies (listed in item 1) and request a fraud alert. Doing so will put a fraud alert on all three of your credit files. The alert will last 90 days. If you file a police report or complete the ID theft complaint form from the FTC, you can extend the fraud alert for seven years.
Filing a fraud alert is probably the best step for someone who is unsure if he or she is a victim.
3. Follow-up with impacted organization
If the breach occurred at an organization with whom you do business, be sure to follow the legitimate directions provided by that organization. If it offers credit protection services, sign-up for the service.
4. Notify affected banks or creditors
If you know that one of your bank accounts or credit lines has been compromised, call the affected company, immediately.
5. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Call 1 (877) 438-4338 or visit www.identitytheft.gov. The FTC will guide you through the necessary steps, from reporting the crime to creating a personal recovery plan.
Important: This article does not contain any legal or tax advice. You should always consult with your attorney, accountant or other professional advisors before changing or implementing any tax, investment or estate planning strategy.