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Equifax Hack- What Should I Do?

By now you’ve almost certainly heard the news of the massive Equifax hack and data breach. We know you probably have a lot of questions, so we wanted to provide some guidance during this confusing time.

#1) ASSUME YOUR DATA HAS BEEN COMPROMISED

It’s probably best to assume that you are one of the roughly 143 million Americans impacted by this incident. Due to the somewhat unique nature of Equifax’s business, there’s a good chance they have some of your data, even if you’ve never given it to them directly. Even if you have already visited the website Equifax established (https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/) to let you check if you were impacted, your results may not be reliable. Numerous outlets have reported problems with the system, including instances where the same person, putting in the exact same data, has received conflicting messages. Other reports indicate that even randomly entered data is often resulting in a “we believe you may have been impacted” result. Since there seems to be no way to tell with 100% certainty whether or not some or all of your data has been stolen, we believe it’s best to err on the side of caution.

#2) WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THIS EQUIFAX TrustedID Premier THING THEY WANT ME TO JOIN?

If you go to the website noted above and are told that you may be a victim of the data breach, Equifax will offer you a free year of its TrustedID Premiere service. Unfortunately, if your data was stolen, criminals could try using it for many years, if not decades to come. Here are some other things to know about Equifax’s TrustedID Premiere service:

  • Contrary to initial reports, it appears that enrolling in the service will not require you to waive your rights to any class action suit. An initial clause in the user agreement had some – including several attorneys general – concerned that would be the case. Equifax has since amended the terms of agreement and clarified that subscribing to the TrustedID Premiere service will not waive your legal rights with respect to the data breach. From Equifax…

    “Again, to be as clear as possible, we will not apply any arbitration clause or class action waiver against consumers for claims related to the free products offered in response to the cybersecurity incident or for claims related to the cybersecurity incident itself.”

  • The program includes services such as 3 bureau credit monitoring, copies of your Equifax credit report, “social security number monitoring,” and $1 million dollars of identity theft insurance (subject to a laundry list of terms and conditions). Notably, the service does not appear to offer you any help in restoring your credit or fixing problems that arise as a result of the breach, or otherwise.
  • After a year, the TrustedID Premiere will no longer be free. If you enter into the free one-year agreement, be prepared for Equifax to send you a barrage of advertisements trying to keep you as a paid customer.

For more information about TrustedID Premier, you can visit this link: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/trustedid-premier/

#3) WHAT SHOULD YOU DO NOW?

Sad to say, but in today’s modern era, it is really not a matter of if your personal data will be stolen, but rather, when it will be stolen. What makes the Equifax hack so troubling compared to most breaches, however, is the sheer volume and depth of data that hackers were able to acquire. With that in mind, and just as a matter of good practice, here are some steps you can consider taking now to help you protect your credit:

  • FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
    If you are not planning on seeking new credit in the near future, this is probably your best option. Placing a freeze on your credit will prevent anyone from accessing your credit report. Unfortunately, that includes potential lenders that you actually want to have access to your data!Thinking about getting a new credit card (including one of those cards cashiers sometimes encourage to get a big discount on a purchase), taking out a mortgage, leasing or purchasing a car with a loan? All of those will likely be impossible while you have your credit frozen. Sometimes prospective employers or landlords will also want to take a look at your credit as part of their decision making process. And while it’s true that you can unfreeze your credit if you actually want to allow a company access, it can be a pain in the neck to do so and, depending on where you live, you could incur fees to do so. But if you have no plans on doing anything in the near future that would require access to your credit, this seems like a good option.

    There are three main credit agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax), as well as a fourth smaller one you’ve probably never heard of called Innovis. If you’re going to go the route of a freeze, it’s probably best to lock all four. To do so, you can visit their websites, or, if you prefer, you can call them. Be forewarned though, due to overwhelming volume, consumers have reported major problems with both options.

    Equifax
    1-800-685-1111
    freeze.equifax.com
    Experian
    1-888-397-3742
    experian.com/freeze/center.html
     
    TransUnion
    1-888-909-8872
    transunion.com/securityfreeze
    Innovis
    1-800-540-2505
    innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze

    When you freeze your account, you’ll be given a PIN number. Make sure to store this in a safe place, because you’ll need it if you ever need to unlock (un-freeze) your account.

  • SET UP A FRAUD ALERT
    If you’re planning on doing something that will require access to your credit soon, or you don’t want to pay the potential credit freeze fees, you might want to consider setting up a fraud alert on your account. A fraud alert does not prevent access to your credit file, but it does let anyone looking at your file know that you may be victim of identity theft, which should prompt them to do some extra security checks before issuing you (or a criminal posing as you) any new credit. The hope is that those extra checks are either enough to discover a fraudster, or to do enough to encourage the fraudster to move on elsewhere. In general, fraud alerts last just 90 days, at which time you can reinitiate them for another 90-day stretch. However, if you are called up to active duty, you may be eligible for an alert lasting one year. And in the unfortunate event your credit is abused by a criminal and you receive an Identity Theft Report from police, you may be eligible for an “extended fraud alert” of seven years.
  • CONSIDER PURCHASING A THEFT PROTECTION SERVICE
    If you want to take an additional step to help safeguard your data, you may want to purchase a subscription to an identity theft protection service. The most popular of these is probably LifeLock, but there are other alternatives as well. Many of the services offered by LifeLock and its competitors are included in the TrustedID Premiere service that Equifax is offering victims for free, but after the recent hacking incident, you have to question whether you want to further trust Equifax with protecting your identity. Additionally, certain theft protection services will actually help you fix credit issues that arise, as opposed to just monitoring your credit and alerting you to problems that you are then left to fix on your own.Some companies, such as Experian, are also offering free “dark web” scans that can help you determine if any of your information has been made available in to criminals online.

As always, we are here to help you in any way we can. In the coming weeks and months, we will be providing you with further guidance if, and when it becomes available. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.