The Planner's Perspective: A Forgotten Anniversary - Equifax One Year Later
By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA/PFS, MSA
American consumers recently celebrated a significant one-year anniversary, albeit one we are all trying to forget. Ironically, that is exactly what the criminals who hacked the Equifax credit bureau in August of 2017 are hoping that you do. One year later, memories start to fade, free credit monitoring services expire and many assume that if something hasn’t happened by now that they are probably out of the woods. This common misconception is the opposite of the truth; time is to the benefit of the criminal that has been patiently waiting for the dust to settle to stage an attack right as we let our guard down.
The Equifax hack was significant for a myriad of reasons in addition to its sheer scale that impacted 145 million Americans, the largest cybersecurity breach ever. It attack was the first of its kind and the breadth of data stolen included key Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as names, Social Security Numbers, Dates of Birth and current addresses. Even more disturbing is that on March 1, 2018, Equifax confirmed that partial driver’s license information was stolen from 2.4 million individuals as well. This information, combined with anything else available from public sources (including social media) provides criminals with more than enough information to turn your life upside down.
Criminals now have the necessary pieces of the puzzle to have a much more disruptive impact on your life, creating issues that could take months (or years) to resolve, often resulting financial losses and hours of frustration. This data can be used to file fraudulent tax returns in your name, open fake credit cards attached to your credit profile or to take out loans with you as the named borrower. Your information can also be used to open checking or investment accounts tied to illegal activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing.
Keeping a close eye on all facets of your financial life is the best detection method to pick up on any irregularities. This includes managing not only your credit profile, but also your digital profile (online accounts, passwords, etc.), transaction level activity across all your accounts and even keeping a close eye on the mail that shows up at your house. We also recommend filing your 2018 income tax return as early as possible, once the filing season begins in early 2019.
If you have not done so already, we recommend visiting the Equifax security breach website (https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/) to confirm if you, your spouse or children have been affected. If so, you may want to consider additional preventative measures, including credit freezes (at all 3 bureaus) if you do not plan on apply for a new credit account anytime soon. In addition, many individuals have found solace by enrolling in third party services such as LifeLock to provide additional identity protection and fraud detection services.
Please contact us with any questions and we would happy to provide further insight regarding your personal situation.