Protecting Your Data In a Post-Equifax Breach World
Almost half of the country -- approximately 143 million Americans -- are asking what she or he can do in the wake of the Equifax breach. How can I protect my identity? What does this mean? What additional steps can I take to make sure that I am protected?
These are serious questions in light of one of the worst data breaches in history. The ramifications of this breach may be felt for years to come. In fact, many experts believe the personal information released as a result of this breach will be available on the dark web for at least four years. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are discussing legislation that can be passed to protect the individuals after a breach -- but, this a little too late for those whose data is implicated in this recent breach.
In an effort to help individual consumers who may or may not be affected by this breach, XPAN has compiled this list of resources and tips:
- Visit the Equifax Breach Website to Find Out if Your Data is Affected. Equifax created a website where you can go to determine if your data was exposed in the breach. You can visit it at: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Make sure when you visit the website, you are using a secure connection (i..e, no public wifi, or an unsecured computer).
- Check Your Credit Report. Regardless of whether your data was exposed in the Equifax breach, you should be vigilant in monitoring your credit report. Any suspicious activity (i.e., new lines of credit, requests made that you are unaware of, etc.) should be immediately reported and dealt with.
- Monitor Your Existing Bank Accounts and Credit Cards. Once your data is exposed (and we mean name, address, social security number), individuals can more easily gain access to your existing bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts. We encourage you to call your banks and credits card companies and ask them to take extra security measures in light of the Equifax breach. Asking simply for a name, address, and social security number is not enough protection. These businesses need to develop added security measures -- ask that this be done and then follow up!
- Use a Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert for Extra Protection. A credit freeze or a fraud alert offers additional protections that you should consider if your data has been exposed. A credit freeze will protect you from the creation of new accounts; a fraud alert requires that any entity requesting your credit report to take additional steps to verify your identity. Unfortunately, neither of these mechanisms will protect existing accounts from theft or unauthorized access. Before taking this action, you should consider the ramifications of a credit freeze or fraud alert. It does not affect your credit score or worthiness, but it can affect the speed with which you can obtain credit while the freeze or alert is in place.
- Monitor Your Tax Filings. Identity theft can result in scammers attempting to file your taxes before you are able to do so. Monitor your tax filings and attempt to file as early as possible to avoid a scammer filing for you.
Unfortunately, there is no one solution to protecting your identity once your information has been compromised. But you can be smart. Watch all of your accounts. Set up an alert on your phone or calendar to remind you to check these accounts. Be vigilant and follow up on anything that looks suspicious. Do not use public wifi without protecting that connection (i..e, using a Virtual Private Network (“VPN” to connect). And, avoid suspicious links that are sent to you, either via a known sender or an automated email. The first line of protection for you and your information is YOU.
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Nothing contained in this blog should be construed as creating an attorney-client relationship or providing legal advice of any kind. If you have a legal issue regarding cybersecurity, domestic or international data privacy, or electronic discovery, you should consult a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.