September 20th, 2017 | Miller Advisors

Handling the Equifax breach

What Occurred: Hackers gained access to sensitive information on 143 million American consumers. This is the third major cybersecurity threat since 2015. The data at risk includes Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses.

Immediate Step to Take: Verify on the website or via a phone call to Equifax whether you were affected. If you have changed your name in the last ten years, you will need to provide both names linked to your Social Security number. This is an ongoing situation so you may need to check your information more than once over the next several months.
Phone number: (866) 447 – 7559, hours are 7:00am – 1:00 am EST, seven days a week for the dedicated call center. Equifax has call centers in Florida and Georgia so the wait times may be longer for the next few weeks.
• Website: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/.  This is the link from the Equifax website.

Additional Steps to Take:
• Obtain a credit report from at least one of the agencies, Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion. Each company will offer one free credit report per year. The company website and phone number to order the annual free credit report are:
o https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. 877-322-8228

• Consider placing a Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert on your file. You can do so via their website or phone call. You may want to follow up by mailing in a letter (but do so with a return receipt requested) after you call.
o Experian: http://www.experian.com/. (888) 397 – 3742
o Equifax:  https://www.equifax.com/personal/ (866) 447-7559
o TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/. (888) 909-8872

o A Fraud Alert warns creditors that you may be a victim of identity theft and they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name. A fraud alert is free and will expire automatically unless you renew it. The two fraud alert options are a temporary alert that lasts 90 days or an extended alert that lasts 7 years. Contact one agency to place a fraud alert and it will transfer to the other agencies.
o A Credit Freeze will not allow any new credit unless you authorize it through additional verification procedures. There may be a fee charged by the credit agencies for a Credit Freeze. You will have to contact each agency to set up the Credit Freeze and it will not expire unless you remove it.

• File your taxes early as soon as you have the tax information you need. Tax identity theft happens when someone else uses your Social Security number to file a fraudulent return in order to get a refund. Respond immediately to any letters from the IRS. At the same time, the IRS will never initiate contact via phone call or email since neither one of these pieces of information is on your tax return.

• Monitor all of your financial statements regularly. Research any unknown checking or credit card transaction, even if they are small. Some scammers will start with a small charge to test a card out before pursuing a larger fraud on the account.

Additional resources and articles:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do. Article on the FTC website related to this hack.
https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/. Free credit monitoring for 1 year through Equifax. This does not prevent you filing a lawsuit to recover damages.