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Equifax Security Breach: Insight On The Impact & How to Protect Yourself

Equifax recently had a major security breach in which very confidential information of over 100 million residents was stolen. The information that was stolen includes not only credit and bank account information, but also personal information such as social security numbers. Below is some insight on what this means to you and how you can protect yourself.

Credit Cards and Bank Accounts
The best and only real action you can take regarding you credit cards and bank accounts is to monitor your account transactions.  You can either do this yourself manually or by subscribing to a monitoring service, which will monitor your activity for you. All monitoring services pretty much do the same things and can’t provide absolute assurance that your identity won’t be stolen. 

Banks and credit card companies will reimburse you for the losses if they agree that the losses were from fraudulent transactions and if you report the transactions within sixty days, which is why actively monitoring your bank account transactions can be beneficial.

Additionally, one recommendation to consider is to only use your debit card at ATMs. If your debit card is stolen and used, your bank will probably rectify your account, but not very quickly. Also, if your account is depleted, you could end up facing other problems such as having checks bounce. If your credit card is stolen and used, it may be simpler to just call your credit card company and have them reissue a new card.

Identity Theft
In regards to identity theft, the information that the hackers stole can be used by them or others to pretend to be you and open up credit cards or loans in your name. Monitoring services can help you monitor this activity as well and will most likely catch someone trying to do something in your name.  If you go this route, it should be a paid service.

Also, be cautious of websites that require you to provide your personal information, as hoax sites that look legitimate may be created to mislead visitors into providing their information.  

Putting a Freeze on Your Credit Reports
One other thing you can do is put a freeze on your credit reports.  A bank or credit card company for example, does not open an account without checking your credit report. By placing a freeze on your account, the Institution cannot complete a credit check, which is positive in that a hacker would be denied. However, there are challenges and inconveniences you should consider before pursuing this option.

One challenge is that you may legitimately be trying to buy a car, a house, or open a new bank account. Although the credit bureaus will permit you to put a temporary stop on the freeze in the event you need an institution to access your credit, this also creates inconveniences. For example, it takes time to contact each bureau to place the freeze. Also, if you decide to open up a new credit card, it will take longer as you will need to lift the freeze.

If you would like to put a freeze on your credit file, you need to reach out to each credit bureau separately and pay $5 for each freeze if you live in Massachusetts (each state may have their own agreements with the agencies).

View more information about credit freezes here.  If you want to pursue this option, here is contact information:

If you have any questions, please contact your Wolf & Company representative.