If you have been following the news recently, you have likely heard about the data breach at Equifax. For those who don’t know, Equifax is one of the US’s three major credit reporting agencies. Over the course of several months, hackers were able to access the personal information of over 143 million Americans, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses; as well as the driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and dispute documents of several hundred thousand people.
The Federal Trade Commission recently posted an article with recommendations for how to protect your personal information. We have outlined several of these steps below. In addition, the full article can be read here.
First, you can check to see if you were exposed by visiting the Equifax Website at https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/. From here, you can click on “Potential Impact” and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Then a message will come up indicating whether not you were affected by the breach. Since your Social Security number is sensitive, it is important to do this on a secure computer. Equifax is also offering a year of free credit monitoring for anyone, regardless of whether or not they were impacted by the breach. We are not endorsing this service; however, it is a resource you can look into to see if it fits your needs.
Second, it may be worthwhile to place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files. A credit freeze makes opening a new account in your name more difficult, and a fraud alert warns creditors that they should seek additional verification before issuing credit to someone using your name. You can learn more about freezing your credit here.
Third, it is important to routinely monitor your credit reports and various bank and credit card accounts for suspicious activity. Notify you bank or credit card company immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary. You can access your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com for free at https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports as authorized by Federal law.
At Sterling, we take data security very seriously. We take numerous steps to protect private information and client accounts such as ensuring every member of our team uses encrypted computers with strong passwords and only making trades and disbursements with vocal confirmations. In addition, we are currently in the process of completely revamping our security procedures in order to be even better equipped to deal with threats in the future. Please feel free to reach out and contact us with any questions or concerns, and we will do whatever is in our power to help.