Equifax data breach anniversary: Why it’s time to check your identity defenses

Greater than 50%.

Those are the odds your important personally identifying information (PII) was exposed in the 2017 Equifax data breach. You are forgiven, if the September 2017 announcement of the breach now seems like ancient history, but it’s critical you don’t let your guard down.

Your PII is still—and will always be—in the hands of criminals after the free year of credit monitoring from Equifax expires. That data could include:[1]

  • Full names
  • Social Security Numbers (SSNs)
  • Birth dates
  • Addresses
  • Driver’s licenses and credit card numbers (for a smaller subset of victims)

If that’s not bad enough, in March 2018, Equifax announced that it discovered the PII of an additional 2.4 million was exposed in the 2017 breach. Today, the total number of American consumers impacted by the breach stands at 148 million American consumers.

This article will help keep you safe by explaining:

  • What you need to look out for
  • How to tell if your identity has been breached
  • How to protect yourself 

Equifax scams: what to look out for

Fraudsters can leverage the fallout from the Equifax data breach in a variety of ways. For example, they could steal your identity to open up credit cards, access your bank accounts or steal your tax return. But they could also con you into sharing your PII with them—even if they don’t have it. Here are a few examples for how fraudsters might try to scam you:

  • Imposter/assistance scams—People posing as Equifax representatives calling to “verify account information.”
  • Compensation offers—An email or call offering financial compensation from someone saying they are an attorney or an Equifax representative.
  • Spear phishing—Fraudsters using your stolen information to gain your trust in an effort to access bank and other financial accounts.[3]

Six signs your identity has been breached

Once your identity is stolen, the recovery process is cumbersome and frustrating. Identity theft victims spend an average of 104.6 hours resolving fraud.[4] That’s why it’s important to keep an eye out for warning signs, including:

  • Denied credit—You’ve never had a problem getting credit but unexpectedly receive a rejection for a credit request.
  • Missing mail—Banking, mortgage or other financial account statements don’t arrive in normal time frame during a given month.
  • Tax return issues—Your efiling is rejected or your expected return doesn’t arrive in time, or the IRS informs you it received a suspicious filing or multiple filings, or that you received wages from an employer you never worked for.
  • Unexpected charges—You notice charges on banking statements that you never made.
  • Unexpected bills—Bills or collection notices for large-ticket items you never purchased.

How to protect yourself

If you haven’t noticed any signs of identity theft that’s great. But stay vigilant by:

  • Filing taxes as early as possible—Don’t wait for the deadline, file them as soon as you have all of the necessary paperwork together.
  • Monitoring financial accounts closely—Regularly check your account statements and quickly report any unexpected charges or activity to your financial institutions.
  • Keeping an eye on your credit—Check your credit reports on a regular basis for accounts or activity you don’t recognize (you can access your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com).
  • Using two-factor authentication—If your service providers offer extra layers of security, such as a texting you a passcode when logging in, use them.

It’s also not too late to add an extra layer of protection. We have partnered with CyberScout, the premier provider of identity management services, which can provide you with proactive monitoring support, in addition to resolution services.

Contact your local agent to learn more!


Sources
[1] The Equifax Data Breach: What to Do, Federal Trade Commission, September 2017.

[2] Equifax Releases Updated Information on 2017 Cybersecurity Incident, Equifax, 2018.

[3] Equifax Data Breach Affected 2.4 Million More Consumers, Consumer Reports, 2018.

[4] Equifax Data Breach and Credit Freeze: Beware These 3 Scams, CBS News, 2017.

[5] Scams to Look Out for After the Equifax Breach, NextAdvisor, October, 2017.

[6] Equifax Data Breach and Credit Freeze: Beware These 3 Scams.

[7] Ibid.