Almost half of all Tennesseans (over 3 million people) have been affected by the recent hacking of well known credit reporting firm Equifax, according to Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert Slater. This recent hack means virtually everyone reading this article has a reason for serious concern. In light of this event, we would like to provide some background and more importantly, suggest some steps for how to address your concerns. Please read this information carefully and consider sharing it with others who might find it helpful.
When did the security breach happen?
Around late July 2017, Equifax’s security team began to notice some suspicious network traffic with their online web applications. They tried to fix the vulnerability with an online web application, but the suspicious network traffic did not cease. In August 2017, Equifax contacted an independent cybersecurity firm, Mandiant, to come in and assess the damage.
Who is affected?
Equifax revealed the breach affected an estimated 143 million people in the United States. The hackers were able to access names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even driver license numbers. They were also able to obtain credit card numbers for around 209,000 people. This cyber-attack not only affected American citizens but citizens in the UK and Canada, as well.
Steps to take if you have been affected or would like to prevent being affected
To find out if your social security number was exposed to the Equifax Data Breach, visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach and order a free credit report to check for accounts you don’t recognize. If your consumer credit reporting agency offers you services like email alerts, credit monitoring, or identity theft insurance, it would be wise to take advantage of those services.
To further safe guard your social security information, you should sign up at https://www.ssa.gov/myaccount/. From there, you have the ability to review your lifetime earnings according to Social Security’s Records (SSA). If your records don’t match up with the SSA’s or if you believe someone else has used your SSN, contact the Agency. The site also allows you to read the SSA’s policy on issuing a different SSN and how to block electronic access to your Social Security records.
Consider putting a freeze on your credit files. In order to do so, you will need to contact the nationwide reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion) and request to freeze your credit reports. You will have to supply your name, address, date of birth, and other personal information; fees for the request vary but commonly range from $5 to $10. When you receive your freeze request, each credit reporting company will supply you with a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Keep this number safe because you will need it if you choose to lift the freeze. This freeze will not affect your credit score. Please take into account that a credit freeze will not prevent a hacker from making charges to your existing accounts. Closely monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges that you don’t recognize. For more information on this topic, please visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. This will warn creditors that you may have been a victim of identity theft, which will advise the creditors to try to verify anyone seeking credit in your name. You will need to contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies to place the fraud alert.
Also, file your taxes early. As soon as you have your tax information for the year, you need to file before any hacker or thief can file in your name. One of the top reasons for someone to use your social security number and personal info is to get a tax refund and/or a job. Filing early will prevent someone from receiving your tax refund. Respond to IRS letters as soon as you get them, as well.
Beware of phone calls from the IRS. Unless you already have had contact by mail, most phone calls are scams and no information should be given over the phone. Simply, hang up.
If you feel that your driver’s license information was stolen, you should contact your nearest motor vehicles branch to report the issue.
Price CPAs is a full-service CPA firm. We exist to make a positive difference in the financial experience of our clients. You can learn more about us and the services we provide to both individuals and businesses through our website or digital brochure.