November 22, 2017
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What Happened With Equifax?

Jason LaBarge
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October 19, 2017

On Thursday, September 8, Equifax announced a cybersecurity incident that could potentially impact approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals gained access to files that contained names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, as well as other information. Unfortunately, we are becoming more and more accustomed to hearing about situations like this. The Sony breach, hacking of the Democratic party and several other examples can be cited. However, we have never seen a breach impact this many Americans.

To see if you have been impacted, go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. If you are shown to be impacted, keep in mind that my assistant entered “test123456” as her last name and then entered the last four digits of her Social Security number, and it came back as potentially impacted.

The next step is to then consider enrolling in the free, one-year credit-monitoring service offered by Equifax. At one point, it was thought that by enrolling in this service, you were waiving your right to join a class-action suit but, according to the website, that condition has been removed.

The most important step is to continue to monitor your bank accounts, credit cards and other financial accounts closely. The banks and credit card companies have done a good job of monitoring fraudulent activity. For example, I received a call one Saturday morning from my bank telling me that someone in Florida had tried to use my credit card to purchase gas. When I told them that the charge was fraudulent, they took about a week to review the situation and refund my money.

Other options to help secure your safety include identity theft insurance or enrolling in programs like LifeLock, which is the action I took. LifeLock has three options ranging in cost from $9.99 per month to $29.99 per month. I did the $19.99 per month option that monitors activity on my bank and credit cards. I am not a big fan of identity theft insurance, as the payoff is attractive in the event of a theft, but the damage is still done. Trying to prevent identity theft on the front end is more attractive to me.

A more difficult option is to request a new Social Security number from the Social Security Administration. While changing your number is one the best actions to take, in order to do so, you have to prove serious ongoing problems. Luckily for retirees, in 2018 Medicare will remove your Social Security number from your Medicare card and issue a new card entirely without that information included. That is a big step, as that is a major source for criminals to obtain your information.

Lastly, I recommend that each of us continue to follow all future developments regarding this breach. While it is my opinion that Equifax could have handled this situation much better, it is not the only company that will become victims of a breach like this. Undoubtedly, more will come, and it is imperative for you to protect yourself from negative outcomes.


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