Several weeks ago, Equifax announced that over 150 million records of customer data were stolen by hackers. We’ve had several clients ask for information on how to best protect themselves and their personal information. The information below has been compiled from the credit bureaus.
Even if you’ve never interacted with Equifax directly, it’s very possible that your personal information was still compromised during the breach. For example, if you have any of the following, it is likely that Equifax had your personal information that was a part of the data breach:
- Bank account
- Car loan
- Home mortgage
- Credit card of any kind
For reference, “your personal information” includes:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Social security number
- Home mailing address
- Both past and present addresses
- Phone number(s)
- Email address
As a precautionary measure, individuals are able to “Freeze” their credit through all 3 main credit bureaus. What exactly does that mean? Freezing your credit means that no one (including yourself) can open a new credit account while the freeze is in place. If you want to open a new line of credit, such as an auto loan, credit card, etc., you would have to temporarily un-freeze your credit in order to do so. All of your existing credit lines (credit cards and such) will continue to function as usual without being impacted. During the credit freezing-process, each credit bureau will mail you a PIN unique to you (different PIN for each credit agency) that you must use to un-freeze your credit. Keep this PIN in a safe place, because you will need it to un-freeze your accounts.
There is a small fee associated with freezing your credit at each bureau, varying by state. You will need to complete these process at each of the three credit bureaus. The process to freeze your credit is automated by phone. We have included the numbers for each credit bureau below.
Phone #: 888-909-8872
Phone #: 800-685-1111
Phone #: 888-397-3742
If you think that your information has been stolen or compromised in some way, contact any of the three credit bureaus right away to report identity fraud. They will then notify the other bureaus and provide you with information to report the fraud to the police. If a specific credit card or bank account has unusual activity, contact the credit agency or bank immediately and ask them to freeze the account.
Freezing your credit won’t affect your ability to access accounts with AOG. We will never accept instructions to modify your account or transfer funds from a party that has not previously been authorized to do so on your behalf. If we receive an email request from your personal email address that seems questionable, we will verify with you by phone. Finally, we require both physical signatures and verbal authorization to transfer funds to a third-party account from your AOG accounts.
There are other precautionary measures to take in order to protect your personal information:
- Be sure to monitor your accounts regularly – even if you freeze your credit, it is still wise to monitor your credit report. If your credit card numbers were included in the information that was compromised, a credit freeze won’t necessarily stop someone from fraudulent use of your credit card. Keep an eye out for strange charges on your credit cards and notify your credit card company immediately if anything looks questionable.
- Update your passwords regularly. This is always a good practice, even without a security breach. Change your passwords every few months, and avoid repeating passwords across multiple accounts. Try to think of unique passwords that would be difficult for someone to guess, even if they know basic information about you.
- Consider a credit monitoring service, such as Life Lock or Experian. These companies offer varying levels of services and protection to notify you if anything happens using your name or social security number.
If you have any questions regarding the safety of your personal information with AOG Wealth Management or the Equifax data breach in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
AOG Wealth Management, Inc. does not provide tax or legal advice. The opinions and views expressed here are for informational purposes only. Please consult with your tax and/or legal advisor for such guidance.
The article and opinions in this publication are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. We suggest that you consult your accountant, tax, or legal advisor with regard to your individual situation.