Equifax® Data Breach: How to Protect Your Financial Identity

equifax data

By now, it’s safe to assume most of us have heard about what Equifax is referring to as a ‘cybersecurity incident’. For those of us who haven’t, here’s a quick recap:

  1. Hackers took advantage of a weak area in an Equifax application between May and July 2017.
  2. Information that may have been stolen included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birthdates and driver’s license numbers for close to 143 million U.S. customers.
  3. You will need to take action to protect your information and credit by first visiting equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if you were included in this data breach.
  4. Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring to those effected.
  5. In addition to the breach of personal information, some 209,000 credit card numbers and 182,000 dispute documents containing personal information may also have been stolen. Equifax will alert those affected via U.S. mail.

Also, while it’s true we have the word ‘credit’ built into our name, it’s important to understand your credit union was not breached and your account information with the credit union remains safe.

What this breach could mean to you.

Thieves could use the stolen information to pretend to be you and open accounts like credit cards, auto and personal loans in your name. This could be harmful to your chances of being approved for loans and accounts you are actually applying for in the future. Landlords, utility companies, cellular service providers, employers and others also use your history when deciding to hire, grant you credit, lease a home to you, provide you with internet and other services necessary for daily life. If someone else has taken your good credit on a joy ride, it’s likely they won’t plan to also make the corresponding payments, thus, leaving you with raised debt ratios and poor pay history. All this adds up to lowered credit scores and one big mess to clean up once you’ve discovered they’ve taken advantage of your hard work.

So how, then, do you protect yourself?

The good thing to know is you do have options which could prevent the above scary situation. Some experts suggest a complete ‘freeze’ of your credit file while others suggest a ‘lock’. The two seem the same; however, there’s a difference in how to go about adding and removing the freeze or lock.

According to TransUnion, a major credit reporting agency, locking your credit file puts you in control of preventing lenders and others from accessing your credit. When you lock your credit yourself, there’s zero waiting period, need for a PIN number and no fee is charged. TransUnion suggests enrolling in their credit monitoring program, TrueIdentity, which gives you the ability to lock and unlock your credit anytime while providing free monitoring alerts for critical credit information changes.

Freezing your credit, however, means you’re turning over control to credit reporting agencies to remove and control access to your credit file. You initiate the request to freeze and unfreeze, reporting agencies do the rest. A few things to keep in mind with a credit freeze:

  • There are fees associated with freezing and unfreezing your credit and you must initiate the request with each of the major credit agencies separately. These fees can range from $3 – $10, depending on your state, per request.
  • You may not be able to immediately freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Keep this in mind if, for instance, you’re out and about car shopping and decide to have your credit pulled for loan approval. In some cases, it can take up to 48 hours and may require a fee to unfreeze. Patience is a virtue, but in a world where instant gratification often reigns, it can feel like an eternity.
  • A PIN is required and must be provided when applying for new credit. If you forget your PIN, you’ll have to take in-depth steps with one or more of the credit bureaus to verify your identity and reset your PIN. As this breach is related to personal identifying information, identification processes may be strenuous. If you choose this option, be sure to choose a PIN you will remember.

Clark Howard made it even easier for all by providing links to freeze or lock your credit with each of the 3 main credit bureaus (thanks, Clark!)  You can visit the page by clicking here.

As credit card info for 209,000 cardholders across the U.S. and possibly another 182,000, we encourage you to take advantage of Remote Control Card services by logging into mobile banking using our FlexTeller app and turning your debit cards ‘on’, or active, and off, or ‘disabled’ as you need to use them.  If you have questions about this service, let us know!

Is there such a thing as ‘too much’ protection?

In this case, it’s not possible to be overzealous in protecting your financial identity, especially since it’s important to remember you may not immediately see false accounts or trade lines on your credit report. Identity thieves are patient…this breach happened in May – July 2017 and it’s possible, if your information is misused at all, it may not be evident for a long time. If you do not choose (and even if you do) to block or freeze your credit, you should be diligent in monitoring your financial accounts and credit report for any suspicious activity. You can do this by requesting your credit report from each of the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, at no charge, once per year. To request a copy from one or each of these agencies, visit annualcreditreport.com. Some may choose to enroll in other credit monitoring services like Credit Karma. If so, understand these services are not the ‘be all, end all’; combine the info you see with these services to what you see on the credit reports you request.

Still, despite all you can do to help yourself, we’re here for you as well…working to calm the concerns you’ve expressed to us when calling, emailing and stopping by one of our offices. You should know we take this breach very seriously and have taken steps to ensure your member advisors are working to protect you and your information. Just as we’ve always done, we’ll continue to ask you to verify your account and contact information by asking several questions when you call. This will continue to be consistent across the board and we ask that you be patient while we complete this process as it’s truly in your best interest. A few extra seconds spent verifying your identity could prove to save you hours of frustration in the long-run should identity thieves attack the security of your information.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 404-978-0080.

Don’t Neglect Financial Health When Making Resolutions This Year

law hammer and piggy bank

Think back on each New Year. Notice anything in common with years past? Maybe you’ve resolved each year to make better nutritional decisions. I will not eat the WHOLE plate of cookies. Or, maybe you’ll take it a step further and throw in a promise to yourself to take your health a little more seriously. My neighbor can get up at 5:00 am for a run before work. Why can’t I?

Whatever your resolutions may be, why not resolve to take better care of your financial health as well? It’s no secret that having a healthy understanding of your financial outlook can positively affect your physical health. We have enough sources of stress – money shouldn’t be one of them.

Start small. You already have a savings account! It’s the first account you open to become a member of the credit union. Use it. It’s there to help you plan for the future. Whether there’s a European adventure or an unforeseen emergency on the horizon, save so you’ll be prepared for it.

Set a budget. That’s the easy part. It’s sticking to it that becomes tricky. You may have heard it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Budgeting is no exception to that rule. If dropping by a Starbucks® every morning on your way to work gets you going, plan for it in your budget. Identify any unnecessary purchases and see how they affect your budget. If it takes you over your budget, eliminate it.

Make savings a budget category. Pay yourself first! Seriously! Either write yourself a check or automatically transfer funds to your savings account each time you get paid. You already know how much to set aside for bills and other obligatory charges, so take a reasonable amount of money and place it in a savings account. Don’t forget that MembersFirst offers Christmas Clubs and other special savings accounts that make saving simple.

Track spending trends. Ever wonder where all that money goes each month? Make budgeting fun by tracking spending and saving trends with our free MoneyDesktop™ program. Log in to MoneyDesktop™ via FlexTeller and begin tracking your finances, even if they aren’t in accounts with MembersFirst. You may be surprised to see just how much you spend at the grocery store or on fast food.

Commit to stick. Like many New Year’s resolutions, we tend to be gung ho about sticking to them, only to ruin that plan by MLK, Jr. Day (sooner, for some of us). Sometimes it’s just a matter of forgetting to track your spending. Stay on top of your spending and make it simple by designating a time and place each week to keep up with your finances. This is when you’ll also plan for future expenses and track spending habits.

We know that everyone’s financial situation and goals differ, so at MembersFirst, we provide options that help you afford life, regardless of the stage in which you find yourself. Stop by a branch and have a conversation with one of our member advisors about your short- and long-term goals today! Or, visit membersfirstga.com for a listing of products and services to help you succeed!

Keeping Identity Thieves at Bay

keeping thieves at bay

When more than just you is concerned with your money.

Remember our post about safe mobile browsing and shopping?  We hope you had a moment to read it and consider the dangers of using a mobile device without following safe web-browsing practices.

But, what about when you’re not coffee shop bound, sipping a latte and checking out the latest technology steals and deals?  Maybe you’re sitting at work or with friends catching the latest Hunger Games installment.  Your cell is likely tucked away in your pocket or purse.  Think your money and personal info are safe?  You may want to think again.  There could be others digging for your personal information and you may not even realize it.

Identity Theft — You’ve heard the term, but do you really know just how easy it could be for someone to steal your identity? Mistakes like using the same password for multiple logins, not shielding your credit card numbers and pins from Nosy Ninas and oversharing on social media are just a few ways you’re putting yourself at risk for financial woes.

In this second installment of Fun Financial Ed, Jen learns just what she’s doing right (and wrong) to protect her identity.  Check it out.

Can’t access the video?  No problem.  Check out the info below.

Looking to make the switch to a Credit Union that understands the unique needs of its members?  Join today and discover what over 24,000 others already have!  We’ll make the process simple and convenient.

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Make the switch to simplify your life and your finances today!

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5 Identity Theft Jackpots (and How You Can Safeguard Against Them)

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost its victims billions of dollars (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle involved in recovering a stolen identity.

The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to deter identity thieves. The bad news is that many of us do little beyond choosing a decent password—and some people don’t even bother doing that! Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

  1. Your Trash Can

Even if you’re really careful about the information you put online, your trash bags and recycling bin can still be an easy target for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

Get a shredder (a basic model will run you $20 to $30 at a big-box store) and use it!

Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out, especially things like bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cellphone bills, paycheck stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.

Don’t forget to check your envelopes! Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

  1. Your Phone

Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list. With smartphone theft on the rise, protect yourself:

Have a password-protected lock on your home screen. This is a standard feature on all smartphones for a reason, so take advantage of it! Bonus points if your smartphone also has location tracking (also known as the “find my phone” feature).

Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or during your layover at the airport.

Do not store sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

  1. The PIN Pad

It seems like every few months a new point-of-purchase scheme emerges—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking… the list goes on! Here are some good practices for when you’re out and about:

When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.

Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN number, even if there’s no one immediately behind you—a camera can always be watching.

Choose a good PIN. Avoid PINs derived from your personal information, like your telephone number, address or birthday. Avoid an easy-to-guess PIN, like the dreaded “1234.”

Change up your PIN, especially if you use the same combination for your debit card and for unlocking your cellphone.

  1. Your Mailbox

Like the trash-picker approach mentioned above, mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information. Here’s what you can do:

Familiarize yourself with your billing cycles. A late credit card statement or a bill that never shows up could be a sign of mail tampering.

Identity thieves will sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office to make sure this isn’t the case.

Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

  1. Your Computer

You would think that this one would be common knowledge by now, but every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers:

Keep your firewall, anti-virus and operating system software up-to-date. No matter how new and fast your laptop is, it still needs protection.

Enable spam filters on your email accounts.

Look out for sketchy links and emails. Ignore any suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers or anything that asks for your personal information via email.

Don’t overshare on social media. Do your Facebook friends really need to know what year you were born? Can people tell when no one is home based on your Instagram feed? Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.

Online Banking and Bill Pay–it’s just what the doctor ordered.

bill pay tutorial

To Do:

√Take Sarah lunch at school.
√Change batteries in remote.
√Pick up kitty litter.
  Mail Chad cash for uniforms.

Feeling a bit stressed?  Our lives are packed full of random tasks and things we have to remember each day so our days can run a little more smoothly.  While we can’t take little Sarah her forgotten lunch (we wish we could!), we can lend a hand in sending Chad the cash for this season’s football uniform.

Let us help you simplify your day with our easy and convenient Online Banking and Bill Pay services.

With just a little info and a few simple clicks, you can mail payments to a person or business, make bill payments, check balances, monitor savings goals, transfer from one account to another and much more.

Save yourself the stamp and time by enrolling today!  It’s just the thing to relieve a little of the financial worries we tend to pile on ourselves day in and day out.  All you need is a membership and checking account at MembersFirst and a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

Plus, get helpful step-by-step-instructions for scheduling payments, setting up eBill, making transfers and setting up bill pay alerts. See how simple it is to take online banking to a new level of convenience with online bill pay.

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Online Bill Pay Tutorial

Not a member?  That’s ok.  Become a member today by opening a membership share account with a minimum deposit of $25 and a valid government issued identification card.  Click here to join or by clicking the Join Today! button below.

Questions before you join?  Give us a call at 404-978-0080 or stop by one of our branch locations.  We’d love to hear from you and begin the process of simplifying your financial life.

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