1 – Monitor your existing accounts and your mail.
Your primary concern should be your current accounts, so keep a close watch on them to be sure no fraudulent transactions occur. If you get mail about an account that you don’t remember opening, contact the company and verify the information. It’s rare that this would happen because of this data breach but this is where we advise clients practice the most diligence now.
2 – Be careful of emails.
Be wary of any emails you receive from Equifax which suggest you click on a link. They’ll be an easy target for this kind of ’phishing’ strategy with all of the news around them lately. The best thing to do, always, when you receive an email from any business who asks you to click on their link is to instead visit the company’s website and follow any links you find there.
3 – Review your credit reports.
The site AnnualCreditReport.com allows for everybody to download one copy per year of their full credit report from the 3 reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You can log in, download your reports, and review them for accuracy. If you have any concerns about accounts on that list you can then verify them with the issuers and submit corrections online if any are needed.
A few other questions we have received that we thought should be addressed are:
What should I do about the IRS to protect myself against a fraudulent return being filed?
The IRS has mechanisms to protect clients from fraud, but there is no proactive way to take advantage of those. You can only file for IRS fraud protection after you’ve been a victim of a fraudulent return being filed.
Should I have or place a credit freeze?
We’ve had a few questions asking if you should have or place a credit freeze on your credit files. If you’re very concerned and this will provide you with some comfort, please go ahead. However, we aren’t advising that all clients place credit freezes at this time. It can be a hassle to remove the freeze when you are applying for new credit or opening new accounts with credit issuers or things as seemingly common as starting a new cell phone service.
Should I sign up for the Equifax Monitoring Service?
Based on the initial information we are seeing, this seems like a favorable offer from Equifax. There were some initial concerns that those signing up might be waiving some of their legal rights, but after some critiques in the media there is an update to the EquifaxSecurity2017.com site today that reads:
If you are concerned about any of the legal rights you may give up to Equifax or TrustedID by signing up for the free service, there are plenty of other monitoring services out there to choose from. A few options are CreditKarma, a free service that requires you to log in and proactively monitor your credit history for anything that is suspect; or LifeLock and IDShield which are both paid services but alert you if they notice activity that they suspect is fraudulent. Alternatively, you may want to check with your bank or credit union as they may offer a free or paid credit monitoring service as well.
Does this affect my ability to apply for or claim Social Security?
There’s no reason this breach should affect your ability to claim through the Social Security system for any of your benefits. If you have an online account at SocialSecurity.gov you should be able to continue to use it with no issues. If you have not created an online account to view and monitor your Social Security record, that process uses your credit bureau records to verify your identity so if you have a credit freeze you may not be able to access the site. This difficulty with access won’t affect your ability to utilize your Social Security benefits in any way, it just may require a trip to the local Social Security office or assembling a packet of information to send when you need to make adjustments or changes.
We remain committed to helping you in all phases of your financial life, and remain hopeful that the impact of the Equifax data breach will remain limited and lead to future improvements for the safety of all of us and our data.