Early in my courtship with my wife, I spent many chilly, rainy evenings in Manhattan, standing in long lines outside art-house cinemas to see quirky foreign films I really didn’t want to see. Those black-and-white flicks were usually in French or Italian, with inaccurate subtitles and typically heavy on relationship issues and light on action. Oy!
Speaking of paying for things we don’t really want (and little action), that’s how Equifax and the other credit bureaus have long treated the millions of consumers whose personal financial data and credit history it collects, hordes and sells without our knowledge. Then they have the nerve to put the burden on us to correct the data they have inaccurately compiled about us and charge us to block/freeze others from having access to it.
Equifax announced last week that up to 143 million people may have had their Social Security numbers and other data stolen by hackers. Those hackers are almost as unscrupulous as the Equifax execs who sold millions of dollars’ worth of Equifax company stock, just before the massive data breach was announced.
It’s just a hot mess that keeps building on itself. However, most consumers don’t have time to be furious because they’re too concerned about protecting their personal financial data.
As New York Times columnist, Ron Lieber noted in his recent column, “some people are waiting until the middle of the night to try to use Equifax’s security freeze website and even failing then to get through. It’s like trying to get Bruce Springsteen tickets, except nobody wants to see this particular show,” quipped Lieber.
We know many of you have been counseling clients about what to do if they suspect their social security numbers, credit history and other personal financial data has been compromised.
From the Soundmark Wealth blog:
- Select the “Check Potential Impact” button on the Equifax website to see if your personal information was compromised.
- Monitor all financial accounts and report any suspicious activity.
- Consider a credit freeze.
- Sign up for the TrustedID Premier free credit file monitoring Equifax is providing at this time.
- Return on the provided date to finish enrollment in the free credit monitoring program.
- Check your credit reports. You are eligible for 3 free credit reports per year. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to view the reports. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could be an indication of identity theft. If you think you’re a victim, visit www.identitytheft.gov to find out what steps to take.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name, but won’t prevent a thief from impacting an existing account.
- Monitor existing credit card and bank accounts closely.
- Consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim, and requires them to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is actually YOU!
- Hire a credit monitoring service. LifeLock or American Express’s Credit Secure service are worth considering.
*** NOTE: Please help The Financial Awareness Association with Wealth Advisor Confidence Survey in light of recent natural disasters, Equifax breach, North Korea nukes and revolving door White House.
Eventually Equifax will be punished and consumer privacy rights will be taken more seriously by all the credit bureaus and the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, among other watchdog groups. But it will take months or years for real reform to take place. In the meantime, be proactive. Follow the suggestions from our clients above. Better safe than sorry. If you’re lucky, you’ll have enough left in your bank account to attend a Springsteen concert.
TAGS: Equifax breach, Ron Lieber, Independence Advisors, Soundmark Wealth Management