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The Equifax Data Breach: What Matters?

MICHELLE SMALENBERGER, CFP ®

There have been articles informing individuals what to do about the recent data breach.  See this link for what has happened.

What we have learned:

  • Signing up for Equifax credit monitoring is not necessarily free like it has been with other company breaches. You can sign up by November 21st for free monitoring, but they may not alert you after the free period after which you will be charged.  You can go to the Equifax website to sign up for this.  However, as seen in this video you may not get things started right away as volume is really high.
  • Signing up for credit monitoring may waive any of your future legal rights regarding this data breach. Please read ALL the fine print.

Here are our recommendations and thoughts for protecting your personal information.

  1. Pull Your Credit Report Today!

There are three agencies you can do this with from the links below:

Each agency offers a free report every year.  In a typical, non-data breach environment we would suggest that you pull your credit report every four months rotating between the three agencies to keep current on what your report has.

REMEMBER you do not get a free credit score report, but a free credit report.  This will list all the outstanding credit that has been opened in your name.  So you will not see your actual credit score, unless you pay for that.  By pulling your report today you will know in the future when something has been added that may be suspicious.

  1. Regularly Review Account Balances

Log in to your bank account or view your account statements to make sure there isn’t any unauthorized activity.

Review credit card and debit card transactions so you know these are purchases you’ve made.

  1. Credit Card Versus Debit Card

If you have a credit card, we suggest using that for your spending rather than a debit card.  We understand and encourage the thinking that you don’t want to spend more than you earn or can pay back on a credit card.  This suggestion is simply for security reasons.  With your credit card you have a month to review purchases and to dispute any unauthorized activity before a bill is due.  Many credit card companies will even review the disputes for you, so you don’t have to do it all yourself.  With your debit card, the money comes right out of your account and the account balance is the limit.  When you notice the transactions the money is already out of your account.

  1. Savings Versus Checking

If you prefer not to use credit cards then keep a majority of your funds in your savings account that you can transfer to your checking account as they are needed.  This way there is a smaller balance available in the account linked to your debit card.

  1. Freeze Your Credit

If you are not anticipating upcoming purchases such as a home, loan, new property insurance, or large purchase where your credit might be screened, this might make sense.  When your credit is frozen, attempts to apply for credit cannot be done.  You can freeze your credit with each agency mentioned previously.

IF you do take this step, please be sure that you are aware you will need to lift the credit freeze when you do want to have your credit reviewed by a lender.  And you need to also know how long that takes for each agency to process.

Lastly, implementing a credit freeze may not be free depending on your situation.  Here are links for each of the 50 states so you can review as applicable to you.

6.   Two-Factor Authentication

Adding a PIN number or security word can be helpful for extra security when logging in or calling to access financial accounts.  You can also set up a randomly generated text that is sent to your device so you know when anyone logs into to your accounts.

The most practical ways are to pull your credit reports and track spending on your cards and accounts.  If we can help you in specific ways regarding your credit or securing your data please let us know!