Equifax Security Breach

While the Equifax security breach only recently became public knowledge on September 8, in many ways, it was a lifetime ago.

We were already on high alert for instances of identity theft. But the source, scope, and what seems like a justified feeling of betrayal associated with this particular breach have ushered in a new era of cybersecurity. There was before the Equifax breach; now there’s after.

What does “after” look like, and how can I help you navigate it? You’ve no doubt noticed a barrage of articles covering what has happened and what others suggest you should do about it. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all regimen, but here are some steps you can take to protect your identity:

Check your credit reports using annualcreditreport.com. Keeping an eye on your credit reports has long been a best practice, and should continue to be, today more than ever. Be sure to only use annualcreditreport.com. As the website says, it is the only provider authorized by Federal law to provide you with the free annual reports that already are rightfully yours. Also, so you can obtain a free credit report more than annually, consider staggering the three primary agencies’ reports, selecting one to review every four months. If you need help completing this or would like to discuss, please let me know.

Consider placing a fraud alert or a freeze on your credit. Deciding which (if either) of these actions makes sense for you depends on your personal circumstances. For example, if you’re frequently applying for credit, placing a freeze may be impractical. On the other hand, if you have been a victim of identity theft, an alert might not suffice. In this instance, it’s worth reading through the advantages and disadvantages before determining your next steps, and I can help you with this process. Just remember a freeze needs to be placed with all three credit reporting agencies.

Consider enrolling in a credit monitoring service. Equifax has offered to provide a year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection via TrustedID Premier. I would not recommend using this service for several reasons. First, Equifax has not proven a reliable custodian of your private data. Second, a year of free monitoring is not long enough to provide any real protection as identity thieves can be exceedingly patient. And third, the reviews of the customer service provided by Equifax have been less than stellar. That said, other independent services can be costly (especially if you’ve got an entire family to cover), and they may not ultimately offer much that you cannot do on your own if you so choose. It comes down to a cost/benefit analysis unique to you. I have personally been using a monitoring service for years and feel that it is worth the price.

Regularly change the passwords and PINs on your financial accounts. Like regularly monitoring your credit reports, periodically changing your financial account login information has been and remains a best practice. You can read more on this topic in our post “Online Security.”

File your tax returns as early as you’re able. Filing early minimizes the opportunity for an identity thief to file a bogus return on your behalf.

We’ve seen other tips and pointers besides these, some of which may be advisable as well. To avoid informational overload, here are three guiding lights:

  1. Pace yourself. As with any seemingly insurmountable challenge, it may be best to take things one step at a time, lest you lock up and end up doing nothing at all.

  2. Patiently prevail. Approach your security as an ongoing process rather than a quick fix. After determining which actions make sense for you, set up a routine and a schedule for implementing them. Write down your plans, and then follow them.

  3. Partner with YD Financial. I won’t go into sensitive specifics here but let’s talk about your particular circumstances. The more aggressively we join forces to thwart cybercriminals, the more likely we will ultimately prevail. Privacy security is now part of my client service calendars to be reviewed annually.

As this wise educator observed in reflecting on the Equifax breach, “Security isn’t a product. It’s a process.” Just as sensible investing involves taking appropriate near-term steps in the context of an ongoing, personalized plan, so too do we find it increasingly imperative to respond to this and future cyberattacks with upfront planning, well-reasoned action and continued best practices. Let us know how else we can assist with that!

Bill Nickles