What To Do After The Equifax Data Breach
Last week news broke that Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, had been hacked and up to 143 million Americans personal information had been stolen. The information included social security numbers, addresses, drivers license numbers, birth dates, and about 209,000 credit card numbers.
This is pretty shocking information for many people in the United States as well as some in the U.K. and Canada. It may not be the largest hack in history but it contains the most sensitive information about the people whose information was stolen. It is the kind of information that banks, insurance companies, medical professionals and other security-sensitive businesses use to identify customers.
Most of us have never signed up or registered with Equifax but because it’s one of the major credit reporting bureaus they have our information anyway. Anytime we apply for a loan, credit card or even to rent an apartment the companies we apply through go to Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, to check our credit and determine whether to accept the application.
According to Equifax the breach lasted from mid-May through July. Equifax said that criminals “exploited as U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files.” That is about as much information as the company is willing to disclose at this time. They haven’t clarified who was behind the hack but did note that an investigation is ongoing.
They have set up a site to help consumers find out whether their information was part of the hack but using the site will waive your right to join any class action lawsuits against Equifax. You also have to provide your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to a company that was hacked and didn’t report it until five weeks after they discovered the breach.
If you feel like you don’t know what to do, that’s why we’ve written this post, there are steps you can take to protect your information in the event that you were hacked without using the site Equifax set up. I for one am not comfortable giving them more information about me and would like to pursue other options.
First, keep an eye on your accounts. It may seem obvious but many people use budgets and spend about the same amount of money from month to month. It is more important than ever to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in any of your bank accounts, credit cards or loans and check for notifications to see if new credit applications have been filed in your name.
Use a free credit monitoring service like Credit Karma which sends users alerts any time there is a change to a credit score or something suspicious happens with your credit report. There are also many paid credit monitoring tools so if you want to pay, do some research and find one you’re comfortable with. Here is a lengthy list of the best credit monitoring services in 2017 by WalletHub.
The next, and most effective, thing you can do is freeze your credit. This will have no affect on your existing credit accounts, credit cards, loans etc., and will prevent any new lines of credit from being opened in your name. It may cost money to do this depending on where you live, there is a $6 fee to do this in Idaho, but it gives you ultimate control over your credit. You will receive a personal identification number, PIN, that only you know and can use to “thaw” your credit when legitimate applications for credit and services need to be processed. This makes it much harder for criminals to apply for credit in your name, even with your personal information. Here are links to each bureau’s freeze sites, Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
If you don’t want to freeze your credit you can place a fraud alert on your files. This alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is really you. This is a good idea right now because Equifax is not coming right out and telling consumers if their information has been compromised, just that there is a chance that it was. This alert will protect your credit from unverified access for at least 90 days and give you some time to see how this plays out and find out if your information was compromised.
You can also request your free annual credit report from any one of the three bureaus if you haven’t done so in the last 12 months. Review each report, one from each of the three bureaus, for accounts you don’t recognize, an incorrect address or other red flags. If you believe you may be a victim of identity theft, you can take steps to resolve it here.
What can you do moving forward? Most of these strategies are short term, you can’t freeze your credit forever and a fraud alert only lasts for 90 days unless you can prove you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Signing up for a credit monitoring service was a good decision even before the news of the hack broke so we would definitely recommend that. But is there anything else we can do?
Most homeowners insurance policies either include or have optional coverages for identity theft, if it’s included the limit is usually not more than $2,000. Check your policy to see if you’re covered for identity theft and what the limit is. If you’re not covered, or have more credit than the limit on your policy, reach out to your insurance company or agent for more information and a quote for increased identity theft coverage.
Do you own a business that receives payments or uses personal information in any way? If you do, chances are good that you store that information electronically and could be hacked if someone targeted you. This is where cyber liability coverage comes in.
Cyber Liability covers a business’ liability for a data breach in which the firm’s customers’ personal data is exposed or stolen. Depending on how many transactions you do or how much information you store, your liability could be high. Not only will you be covered for breaches but most insurance carriers will help you set up proper defense mechanisms to protect information from hackers because they don’t want to see your information get hacked or cover the cost of an event like that.
Cyber Liability is just one of the many types of coverage we offer at HD Insurance. Up to $1 million dollars of coverage can usually be added on to an existing policy for around $300 per year or written as a standalone policy for around $700 a year. If you think your liability is higher than $1 million dollars, have questions about the coverage or would like to request a quote, contact us today and we would be happy to assist you.