From mid-May-July 2017, there was a security breach of Equifax data. Equifax is one of the nation's three top credit reporting agencies. The personal information of 143 million American consumers was exposed.
The information stolen includes names, home addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, and even credit card numbers. With this all known now, here are the things you need to know about identity theft and red flags to look for:
- Start out by going to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/ to find out if you are one of the unlucky winners of the 2017 security breach.
- If you are one of the ones who are a part of the breach we encourage you to get a free copy of your credit report from annualcreditreport.com.
- Set up a fraud alert. This will freeze your credit for 90 days. Trans Union Fraud Assistance Department: 800-680-7289 - Once you call, in 24 hours or less, a fraud alert will be put on all your credit reports, alerting creditors to call for permission before opening any accounts in your name. Unfortunately, creditors aren’t required by law to pay attention to fraud alerts, so you’ll have to check your credit reports frequently to make sure no new accounts are opened. Calling one bureau will activate it for all three bureaus.
- Lock thieves out of your accounts by changing all your account access information. Change your account passwords to something that is hard to guess. Contact your banks and have them help you obtain new account numbers for all your accounts. Pick a new PIN number for ATM and debit cards. Call all credit card accounts and tell them you are concerned about fraud and ask them to provide you with new account numbers. You may want to contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 to get a new SSN. You also may want to contact your telephone, long distance, water, gas and electrical companies to alert them that someone may try to open an account in your name. You may need to change your driver’s license number if someone is using yours as an ID – go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new number. Contact telephone and utility companies to prevent an ID thief from using a utility bill as proof of residence when applying for new credit.
- To take it a step further, you can even do a credit freeze. A security freeze gives you complete control of your credit file. Unlike credit monitoring or fraud alerts, a security freeze stops an identity theft from happening rather than alerting you to potential fraud after it has happened.
To set up a security freeze you must contact all three of the credit bureaus individually. This process can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked some questions to confirm your identity but it only takes a few minutes.
We recommend beginning with Experian and Transunion as Equifax’s website is currently receiving high traffic. You can freeze your credit by using the following phone numbers and links:
Freezing your credit can cost anywhere from $0 to $10 at each bureau. Proven identity theft victims can have this fee waived. (If you need to lift the freeze you will have to pay the same fee.)
To lift your freeze, you simply contact the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN to lift the freeze for a certain period of time. This can be done online or over the phone. It may take a few days for the freeze to be lifted so be sure to do it a few days in advance.
Signs to watch out for with this breach:
- Strange credit card charges that appear on your statements. It’s easier to spot these if you keep all your receipts and reconcile them with your statements each month. Look for small charges that would not normally be noticed. The thieves could be pinging or testing your accounts.
- Getting turned down for credit unexpectedly is one of the more common ways victims discover they’ve been victimized – don’t be one of them. Subscribe to a service that will provide you with a copy of one of your credit reports and FICO scores on a quarterly basis.
- Unexpected phone calls from creditors is another sign. If you get a call from a creditor demanding payment for a purchase no one in your family can account for have the caller give you all the information possible and investigate.
- Account usernames and passwords or ATM PINs stop working. This suggests that an identity thief may have changed your access codes.
If you have been a victim, you will want to take the following steps:
1. Make a police report and ensure you provide all fraudulent accounts under your name. Please provide as much information as possible. Request a copy of the police report and send it to the creditors and credit-reporting agencies as proof of the crime. Notify the Postal Inspector if you suspect mail theft. Contact the FTC at (877) 438-4338. Fill out the ID Theft Affidavit at the FTC’s Web site, make copies and send to creditors. The agency also has an online complaint form. While their investigators only tend to pursue larger fraud cases, the FTC does monitor all levels of identity theft crimes to find patterns and breaking up bigger identity theft rings. Notify the Office of the Inspector General if your social security number has been used fraudulently.
2. Report all fraudulent transactions to creditors. Contact creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your knowledge. Be sure to put your complaints in writing. Ask each credit or to provide you and your investigating law enforcement agency with copies of the documents showing fraudulent transactions.
3. Keep a log of everything you do to resolve problems. Finally, create a log of all the contacts you make with authorities regarding the matter. Write down each person’s name, title, and phone number in case you need to re-contact them or refer to them in later correspondence.