Even though the Equifax data breach has dominated the headlines, it has not been the only data leakage. In 2016 there were over 1,093 US companies experienced a loss of personal or card data that were reported. What can you do to protect your identity and your money? Fortunately, there are several actions you can take.
What are some of the biggest concerns when a card or personal information is hacked?
Of course, the biggest concern is identifying theft which can lead to fraudulent accounts being set up or even current accounts being taken over by fraudsters. With card breaches, most of the time the biggest concern is with fraudulent transactions being conducted which can drain your account or add to your credit card balance.
Where should someone start in regards to the Equifax breach?
The first step could be freezing access to your credit reports from all three of the major credit agencies. This means that no one can gain access to your credit reports or obtain new credit without having access to a special PIN for each account and providing 24 hour notice.
What is important to understand about taking this security step?
The credit bureau sites might still be experiencing a high volume of activity so it may take a few tries and depending upon the state, you might have a fee to freeze and unfreeze your account. Freezing your credit can be done online at each of credit reporting agencies. Just be certain to not lose your information to unfreeze your account or you might have a delay when you need your credit.
Are there other steps we should take to protect our money and identity?
Monitor all banking and credit card accounts diligently. This includes reviewing statements, setting up alerts and logging on more frequently to review account history. Also, monitor all of your credit reports annually. Early detection is often an important step in keeping problems from becoming major issues.
Do you recommend any additional steps to decrease chances of fraud?
Two other important steps include completing tax returns as soon as possible and establishing an account with the Social Security Administration. Tax return fraud is one of the growing uses of stolen identities and monitoring your Social Security earnings will help detect if someone is using your social security number to gain employment.
What are some common sense things we all should be doing already to protect our identity?
Establish strong passwords on all of your accounts even non-financial accounts like social media sites. Be knowledgeable about phishing scams and be suspicious about emails even from trusted sources. It is best to trust but verify before opening any attachments. Finally, don’t use unsecured WIFI sites to conduct any transactions that require the use of passwords.