Data breaches are becoming so common, the average consumer barely notices when a new one is announced. Equifax, one of three nationwide credit bureaus, is responsible for the latest big breach, and it’s one that should make us all sit up and take notice. As many as 143 million U.S. consumers had personal information compromised, including:
- Social Security Number
- Date of Birth
- Driver License Number
- Credit Card Number – for approximately 209,000 individuals
Credit card losses will probably be seen first, but credit card information is possibly the least dangerous, as credit card accounts can be blocked or closed. The other information compromised can be used to open new accounts – again and again.
People often say, “I can’t be held responsible for fraudulent transactions”. Not directly, you won’t. Banks and credit unions will. But all that loss will trickle down, and thanks to misguided regulatory protection, it won’t be Equifax it lands on. It’ll be the consumer. Higher loan rates, more fees, and decreased rebate amounts are some of the ways fraud losses affect consumers. Not to mention the inconvenience.
Realistically, fraud will never be stopped completely. But we don’t have to make it easy for the criminals. Check your account statements regularly and check your credit report at least annually.
Free credit report - The FACT Act of 2003 entitles consumers to a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the 3 credit reporting agencies, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, through www.annualcreditreport.com.
Credit Monitoring - There are loads of credit monitoring services available, such as LifeLock or Credit Karma, with all offering basically the same products. The Credit Union offers this service through our website or www.MemberSecurityCenter.com. There are 3 levels of protection. With the amount of fraud in our society, I recommend the Platinum Member package for the maximum protection. The cost is $12.95 per month. The credit bureaus offer these services, too, if you don’t mind the fox guarding the hen house.
Current Breach - Equifax is offering a tool to determine if your information was potentially impacted by this breach on their website www.equifax.com. The breach took place from mid-May – June of this year. If anyone pulled credit on you, or if you disputed something on your report during that time period, your chances are greater.