Equifax Data Breach
What you need to know and do to protect your identity and credit
You’ve probably heard about the data breach at Equifax on the news. We’re reaching out to all of our clients from the Avenue’s Homeownership Center to offer guidance on how to respond to this data breach with the end goal of protecting your identity so that this data breach does not jeopardize your financial stability.
When your identity is stolen it can have financial and legal implications and may lead to other challenges down the road. Thieves can use your information to apply for new forms of credit to buy things (and not pay the bill). They can use your driver’s license information to create a false driver’s license and use it for booking when they get arrested. They can file a tax return in your name and get your tax return credits.
In alignment with the financial capability and homeownership counseling we do at the HomeOwnership Center, in this situation, we recommend the usual steps:
- Do an assessment to fully understand your current situation,
- Create an action plan based on your assessment, and
- Act on your action plan.Avenue can help you pull your credit, evaluate if you’ve been a victim of identity theft, build an action plan and start taking steps towards protecting and recovering your identity.
Call to register for a credit counseling appointment
ABOUT THE DATA BREACH
Source: Federal Trade Commission)
What happened? According to Equifax, hackers accessed data on their systems between mid-May – July. The hackers accessed:
- Identity information including: names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers.
- They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
- This includes identity information for people in the UK and Canada.
What do you do next?
- Check to see if you are impacted: Go the Equifax page specific to dedicated to this data breach ( www.equifaxsecurity2017.com) and click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
- Check your credit reports to look for suspicious activity: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request a free copy of each of your credit reports if you haven’t pulled them yet this year. If you have already pulled them and need help, please call the Avenue HomeOwnership Center to schedule a counseling session so we can pull it for you and review with you @ 713-864-9099.
- Protect your identity: Consider the steps below from CFPB and DMV to protect your identity.
- Closely monitor your statements: Regularly review all credit card statements and bank account statements for charges you do not recognize.
- Report identity theft immediately: If you feel your identify has been stolen, report it online immediately at www.identifytheft.gov.
PROTECTING YOUR IDENTITY
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
What is it? A security freeze on your credit report generally prevents new credit and accounts from being opened in your name. You can place a freeze on your credit file at any time, but you must contact each credit reporting company.
How it works: When there is a freeze, creditors can’t access your reporting file and therefore won’t offer new credit. This helps prevent identity thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. However, this also means you won’t be able to apply for credit as easily if you were planning to open a new account or apply for a loan.
PLACE A FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT FILES
What is it? A fraud alert requires creditors to take steps to verify your identity before opening a new account, issuing an additional card, or increasing the credit limit on an existing account. A fraud alert doesn’t prevent a lender from opening credit in your name in the same way a freeze does, but it does require that lenders take additional steps to verify your identity first. When you place a fraud alert on your credit report at one of the nationwide credit reporting companies, it must notify the others.
How it works: There are two types of fraud alerts.
- Initial fraud alerts: Credit reporting companies will keep the alert on your file for 90 days. After 90 days the initial fraud alert will expire and be removed, and you can place another one if you want.
- Extended alerts: An extended alert is for identity theft victims and is good for seven years. It requires that creditors contact you through the phone number or other contact method you designate to verify you’re the person making the credit request.