Data Breach & Identity Theft

August 12, 2019

Recent news about Equifax and Capital One computer hacks shows the prevalence of data breaches. Consumers should be more guarded and take precautionary measures.  In 2017, almost 150 million consumers were impacted by their financial information being stolen from Equifax computer servers.  This past July 2019 Capital One announced their servers were also compromised exposing the personal information of over 100 million consumers.  Cybersecurity is forever with us as consumers. 

In the Equifax case, criminals made off with names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and in some cases driver’s license numbers.  According to Capital One press release hackers gained access to personal information related to credit card applications from 2005 to early 2019 including names, addresses, dates of birth, credit scores, transaction data, Social Security numbers, and linked bank account numbers.  Many consumers young and old could be affected in some way and therefore should consider precautionary measures.

Equifax has a website that allows you to check and see if you were affected by their data breach by providing your last name and last 6-digits of your social security number.  If you were impacted you can file a claim by January 22, 2020 using this website.  As part of your claim you will be entitled to 4-years of free credit monitoring and several other benefits. 

If you haven’t already done so, you should also consider setting up two-factor authentication for all your financial and online accounts.  Here is a short video describing the verify process and why it’s important to your online security. 

A second step of precaution for identity theft is contact each of the three major credit reporting companies and consider one of their services:

At each of these credit bureaus you can do the following:

  • Establish Credit Freezes – when you “freeze” your credit report only you can “unfreeze” your report making it less likely someone can impersonate you and open new accounts in your name.  Freezing your reports can be cumbersome since you would have to unfreeze to obtain new lines of credit, but it’s the most secure method of controlling who obtains your credit report.
  • Establish Fraud Alerts – when you set up a “fraud alert” on your credit report the creditor seeking credit information on you will receive a credit alert that “requires the creditor to take reasonable steps” to verify that it’s you seeking credit and not someone impersonating you. 
  • Establish Credit Monitoring – when you set up monitoring services you can track changes to your credit reports,including applications for credit such as a credit card, loan, or car lease. There are a variety of service providers that will send text or email alerts for suspicious activity, change of address monitoring, dark web monitoring, and other various activities relating to your identity.

In this environment we must all be hyper-vigilant with our personal information. It is imperative that we take all available measures to protect our capital, our data, and our privacy. We value your security and are here to help you take the necessary steps to protect your families. Please let us know if you would like additional information on any of the topics mentioned above.

Gary Martin