Although we sent an email to all of our clients describing steps to take immediately following the Equifax Data breach announcement, additional information about the breach and steps to take continue to evolve. We encourage you get in touch with us if you have any questions or concerns about how to protect your identity and credit after this breach.
Please understand this breach reportedly involved social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, birthdates, addresses and information about existing credit. As such, this breach will require each of us to maintain vigilance for years to come. The cyber attackers who stole this data could wait for a year or two to let this breach settle before they start using the information they stole.
While initially we were concerned about the free credit monitoring Equifax offered, Equifax quickly removed the language preventing you from participating in future class action suits. As a result, we now believe you can accept their one-year free credit monitoring service. While credit monitoring for one year seems like a good start, it is likely to be insufficient and you should strongly consider extending a credit monitoring service. Equifax may extend their offer beyond one year though there are many other options available for this service. AAA members have access to credit monitoring with their membership. LifeLock is another example of an independent company offering credit monitoring. There are also many other services.
In addition to credit monitoring, we do believe you should also consider these additional steps to help protect your identity and credit information.
Consider placing a freeze on your credit. A credit freeze blocks anyone from opening credit in your name. A freeze MUST BE PLACED AT EACH CREDIT AGENCY in order to be effective. The freeze will also block you from opening credit which can be a bit of a hassle, but know that you can “unfreeze” your credit to access new credit at any time, then put the freeze back on. Each of the three large credit agencies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) currently charge a small fee to freeze your credit. To set up a freeze, please call each of the 3 credit agencies and request they freeze you credit. Their phone numbers are: Experian - 888-397-3742 TransUnion—888-909-8872 Equifax - 800-349-9960.
Be vigilant about reviewing your bank, credit card and brokerage statements. If you spot or suspect any unusual activity, alert the bank or brokerage immediately.
Consider setting up an online account to view your Social Security statement. If you are currently receiving Social Security, you may have created this account previously. If you are not receiving benefits, you may need to establish an online account for the first time. To establish an account, go to www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount. Select “Sign in or Create an Account” and follow the steps for creating a new account. Setting up an account serves two purposes: it prevents someone else from opening an account with your social security number and trying to claim benefits on your record, and it allows you to review the information on your Social Security statement for accuracy.
Be aware of tax fraud. With your Social Security number, a fraudster can file a tax return in your name and request a refund. This crime had been escalating in recent years and is certainly feasible with the data obtained in this breach. If you have a problem with a fraudulent filing at the IRS, please call them at 1-800-908-4490.
Be very careful with unsolicited emails. We have already seen a few instances where a person has received an email from someone claiming to be ready to help them with this data breach. The email sender provides a fraudulent link in the email as they try to steal more of your personal and private information. Always be extremely cautious of unsolicited emails that contain links.
If you discover that someone has been using your information fraudulently, contact the police and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC can be reached at identitytheft.gov. In addition to reporting the incident, they provide a number of resources to help you recover from your stolen identity. If you would prefer to call, the FTC phone number is 1-877-438-4338.
We understand that this data breach has been very upsetting. Please know that we will continue to help you however we can. We will also continue to work with Schwab and TD Ameritrade to help guard our clients’ accounts against fraud now and in the future. If you would like any help or guidance, please call us.