In 2017, data security took center stage when Equifax fell victim to one of the largest data breaches of all time. Nearly one hundred and fifty million people had their personally identifiable information stolen, or fifty five percent of all Americans! Since then, additional data breaches have occurred and will likely continue to do so moving forward.
What are you to do? The burden is on consumers to protect their own personal data security. It is difficult to pinpoint what, if any, personal identifiable information has been compromised in the past. Unfortunately, the damage that has been done cannot be reversed; however, taking precautionary steps now, may prevent the need for future recourse.
How can I protect my identity? Equifax, Transunion, and Experian, the three main credit reporting agencies, all offer two forms of identity theft protection: Credit Freezes and Fraud Alerts. These services typically cost between $20-$30 per month, but due to their recent data breach, Equifax has made their services available free of charge for a limited time—not only to those affected by the breach, but to all consumers. The following describes the Equifax services available:
- Credit Freeze: A credit freeze can help prevent unauthorized access to your credit report by restricting new applications in your name. You can place a security freeze on your credit report for free online, by phone, or by mail. You can also place a credit freeze for a child under 16 or an incapacitated adult by visiting equifax.com and entering “credit freeze” in the search bar.
- Note: when a credit freeze is placed on your account, any applications or credit inquiries will not be permitted. You must call Equifax or log into your online account to temporarily, or permanently, lift the freeze as it will remain in effect indefinitely. If married, each spouse has their own credit file, so for protection, both spouses may wish to consider.
- Fraud Alerts: A fraud alert, which is free via Equifax at this time, is an alert on your credit report that lets lenders know you may be a victim of fraud. This alerts lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity if credit is requested. You can place a complimentary one year fraud alert online, by phone, or by mail. To request a complimentary seven-year extended fraud alert, you will need to send documentation showing you are a victim of identity theft. Fraud alerts can also be placed on behalf of incapacitated adults.
If you wish to pursue additional monitoring solutions, you may consider services such as Lifelock. These services offer a more comprehensive monitoring of your financial life at an additional cost. Lastly, if you utilize our custodian partner LPL Financial, rest assured that while you can view accounts online, no transactions are permitted. All transactions must be placed through your financial professional so that they are as secure as they can be.
If you would like to receive additional insights or to discuss your online security, reach out and we will schedule a time to talk.