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.

Brainy Browsing and Purchasing Tactics

user entering credit card on tablet

It seems every time you turn around there’s another item you need—and you needed it, like, yesterday.  A replacement water filter for the fridge, new carpet, an extra garage door opener…

So, what do you do?  If you can’t visit your favorite retail shop, you’ll probably go to your second best option — online shopping.

Whether on your mobile device or a computer, you may have a few of your favorite online shops bookmarked.  Online retail giants like Amazon.com, eBay.com and Zappos.com continually update their safe-purchase policies, but have you checked the security settings of other websites lately?  Are you sure your purchases and personal info is still protected?

There’s plenty you can do to protect your info whether you’re online or out and about.

Spam filters are there for a reason.  Don’t disable (or forget to activate) the spam filter settings on your browser and in email programs.  Though you may not receive notifications each time a suspicious email or a website pop-up is blocked, rest assured the spam filter is doing its job.  If you’re worried it may redirect a legitimate email to the wrong location, just check your spam or ‘junk’ email folder every so often.

Don’t ignore update notifications.  Keep firewall and anti-virus programs up-to-date.  As new malware seems to pop up daily, your computer and mobile device support systems work constantly to keep your content protected by creating new protection policies and pushing them through to you via updates.

Be a skeptic.  If an email or link on a website seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Fraudsters work hard to reach you in various ways.  Don’t assume the email you just received from Aunt Rhonda bragging about the gigantic sum of money she won is legit.  Her email could have been hacked.  Look for phrases that don’t quite make sense, hover over links in emails to see where they point and be leery of shortened URLs that don’t give you clues as to where the link is taking you.

Keep your cards in sight.  Card readers, also known as skimmers, can be present anywhere.  Skimmers retain information when someone runs your card through a smaller machine under a counter or concealed in clothing.  These card readers can even fit over the top of a legitimate card reader at an ATM.  The stolen information can be copied onto another card for use by someone else.  Keeping an eye on your cards at all times and being on the lookout for fake readers can reduce the risk of your information being stolen.

Trust your instincts.  When in doubt, make a purchase from another location or website.  Doing so can save you a lot of time and financial hassle later on.

If you think your personal information has been used by someone other than you or if your cards have been compromised, be sure to alert your financial institution immediately.  The sooner you take back control of your finances, the easier it will be to clean up the mess another may have created for you when unjustly using your information.

If your credit and debit card company don’t come equipped with services like fraud prevention and account monitoring, consider switching to a financial institution like MembersFirst–we take every threat very seriously and will work with you to identify where the information leaks might be.  Don’t put a bandage on the issue; get to the root of the issue by protecting your info as much as you can.

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.

bill pay tutorial
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.

join today button