Equifax (one of three consumer credit reporting agencies) recently experienced a data breach/hack that potentially affects 143 million U.S. customers. Since they gather information about you without any effort on your part, your personal information may have been stolen no matter how careful you’ve been.
In today’s world, using a credit card is almost a requirement. Even if you don’t shop online, your data can easily be stolen every time you eat out. I think we only shopped at Target once in a blue moon, but our credit was comprised several years ago and we ended up having to change our bank debit card.
What You Can Do About the Equifax Hack
Go to this link to determine if your data may have been stolen: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
Sign up for their identity protection. To be honest I have no idea if this will do any good, but I did it anyway.
Do this for both you and your spouse. I did and both my wife and I “may have been impacted.” That’s code for “YES, but we have been advised by our legal department to not admit to anything yet.”
Do you want to protect yourself even more? Freeze all three of your accounts, i.e. Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Here is a link explaining how to do this: http://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/credit-freeze-and-thaw-guide/
This article also has a video about a free service that will monitor your accounts.
I plan to freeze all three of my accounts for both my wife and myself. I will pay a token charge if I ever want to apply for new credit. Since I live a debt-free lifestyle, this is not something I should ever have to do. (You can request a free copy of my book, which includes a chapter entitled “Zero debt is the best.”)
Personally I have had unauthorized uses on my credit cards twice in the past two years – plus the Target breach – although I didn’t lose any money. One credit card company noticed the suspicious charges and called me. With the other one I noticed strange charges and called them. All costs were reimbursed and a new card was issued.
Cyber Protection Steps We’re Taking
At Dickinson Investment Advisors, we believe we have great cyber protection for a small company. We have a written cyber protection policy, if you’re interested in reading it. Over the past several years we have implemented many new procedures including security cameras, locked offices and file cabinets, and alarm systems. We hired a consultant to strengthen our firewalls and set up weekly electronic monitoring, etc. We routinely check on our service partners, such as Charles Schwab, to ensure that they are taking appropriate measures.
Furthermore, you may have noticed that if you email us with a service request, we insist on talking to you in person. We recognize our clients’ voices, and we’ve avoided several problems by using this simple technique.
It’s a scary world and so security is top of mind for us. Don’t be complacent. Take as many common sense steps as you can, but also don’t live in fear.
Call us if you have any questions.
Ron Dickinson, CPA, CFP®, MPA-Tax