Aftermath of the Equifax Breach (PART TWO)
It’s barely been a year since the Equifax Breach became one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. Equifax’s gross negligence resulted in hackers stealing the social security numbers and other sensitive information of 148 million Americans.
As a result of the Equifax breach, the company offered one full year of free credit monitoring. Knowing this, criminals are just biding their time, waiting for the year to expire. They know that once the free credit monitoring expires, the public will feel safe again. They expect consumers will become more lax about protecting and monitoring their personal information. This would be a big mistake for consumers. Since you can’t change your SS#, you must remain ever vigilant.
YOUR DATA WAS ALREADY OUT THERE!
News Flash! Although the Equifax breach was massive, much of the consumer data exposed in that breach was already available to criminals. The majority of American’s most sensitive personal data has already been compromised for several years. It is then sold on the cyber-underground to the highest bidder. If you have any doubt, realize there were 1579 separate data breaches in 2017 alone. Millions of records are exposed in those breaches.
Therefore, even if you were not a party to the Equifax breach, you need to assume that your personal info is already out there for sale. So you need to continue to protect your data for the rest of your life. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to place a freeze on your credit file.
Credit Freezes – will soon be FREE
Starting September 21, 2018 you can place, temporarily lift, or remove a Credit Freeze for FREE. Because each person has their own credit file, each individual should lock down their credit report by placing a freeze on their file.
Once the freeze is in place, only you, (the person who placed the freeze), can view your credit file. Everyone else would be locked out, unless you choose to grant them access to it. Access to your credit file is granted by either placing a temporary lift or by removing the freeze.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, all three credit bureaus must set up a web page to assist consumers with placing a credit freeze.
A WORD OF CAUTION!
Once you begin the process of freezing your credit, you may be enticed to place a Credit “Lock” instead of a Credit “Freeze”. Do NOT be fooled into placing a Credit “Lock”. These are being pushed as an alternative to a Credit “Freeze” by all 3 credit bureaus. Credit Locks do not offer the same legal protections to consumers as a Credit Freeze. So, don’t be fooled!
You should also be sure to place a credit freeze for your minor children. Child ID theft is a criminal’s dream. The theft of a child’s identity is usually not discovered until years later. By that time, the damage is done, and the thief is long gone.
Additionally, all 3 credit bureaus are now required to offer FREE electronic credit monitoring services to all active duty personnel.
CONTINUE TO MONITOR REPORTS
As a habit, consumers should obtain a free credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com This is the only federally authorized website to get your free credit report. Each of the credit bureaus must provide consumers with a free credit report, once a year. The smartest way to accomplish this is to stagger your requests during the year.
In January, go to the website and request only one free report from Equifax. Then again in May, request one free report from Trans Union. Lastly in September, request your free report from Experian. This method gives you the opportunity to review your credit report for free over the entire year.
THAT’S NOT ALL FOLKS
To further protect yourself, it’s also important to request a report, monitor or lock down four other lesser-known consumer reporting agencies such as:
ChexSystems: provides account verification services for banks & financial institutions.
Innnovis: provides ID verification data to assist with fraud detection and prevention.
(NCTUE) National Consumer Telecommunications & Utilities Exchange. NCTUE is a credit checking clearinghouse used by mobile phone providers and utility companies.
Lexis-Nexis: Collects info from public records & data sources such as real estate ownership, liens, judgments, bankruptcies.
NEVER HEARD OF THEM
There are dozens of other companies you never heard of that provide consumer reports to specific industries. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) produced a list of all the known entities that maintain, sell and share tons of data on U.S. citizens. The link to the pdf document is here
The pdf document provides information and the links to the websites of 46 different entities. It also provides information about your legal rights to obtain the data in your reports and dispute any inaccuracies contained in them.
Remember that your data is only as safe as the companies and organizations that are tasked to protect that data. The vast majority of them are doing an abysmal job. So, it is up to you to protect your data and to remain vigilant at all times.
ONE MORE REASON
If I haven’t yet convinced you to freeze your credit file, here’s one more reason to do so. All 3 credit bureaus make a nice profit from selling copies of your file to others. Thus, freezing your credit file will deny them a steady revenue stream. Why should they be allowed to profit from selling your personal info; especially when they do such a lousy job at protecting it. What a perfect way to hit them where it hurts – their corporate bottom line!
You can learn more about credit freezes by reading a prior article of mine HERE