Recent news brought word of the latest data breach. This time, it is a major breach that will affect many, if not most, Americans in some way.
Equifax, one of three credit bureaus, reports the breach occurred between mid-May and July, but they discovered the breach on July 29. We are hearing about it today — more than 40 days later — but at least we are hearing about it.
All three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) have reported breaches as late as 2013, but this is by far the largest, affecting 143 million Americans, according to the latest estimate. That is almost half of Americans.
The three U.S. credit bureaus collect information on all Americans and report just about anything of a financial nature on us, including any type of credit and our history of payment, child support, rent and utility payments, addresses, employment history and virtually anything that can factor in to our credit scores. As a result, your name, Social Security number, birth date, all addresses, including former home and work addresses, and driver’s license information may be in the hands of hackers and posted on the dark web.
How will you know if your information is part of the breach? Equifax promises to mail notices to people they believe are affected. Also, there will be a process to follow to check online, though Equifax has not provided information on that as of this writing.
Here’s what you can do now:
- Check bank statements and credit card statements weekly.
- Freeze your credit with all three credit reporting agencies, which applies to all who live in Indiana. It will take a bit of time, but is much less expensive that cleaning up the mess identity theft will cost you.
- All three credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report every year. Take advantage of this by requesting one every four months with a different agency.
- Purchase a membership with a credit monitoring company, such as LifeLock.
- Don’t let down your guard. Identity thieves, like many of the other types of cyber criminals, are very patient and can afford to wait one to three years to start doing damage from this hack.
- Ensure all computers in your home have the latest anti-malware protection. Keep it updated, and do deep scans at least once daily.
- Learn how to spot bogus emails and develop the habit of not going to strange websites or clicking on emails, attachments and links.
- Develop a plan today to protect your identity and reputation, and don’t stop. At the end of the day, it is your credit, identity, reputation and life. It is also your responsibility to protect it. Start your plan today, but work it every day.
- Finally, read. Educate yourself. There are excellent resources that teach you how to protect yourself. The Adam Levin book, “Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves” is one of the best. “Future Crimes,” by Marc Goodman, is another book that discusses the range of issues we have discussed.
Ron Bush consults with businesses to help them write company’s Information Security Policies and Procedures and train their employees in safe practices. He can be reached at www.RonBushConsulting.com. The opinions are the writer’s.