Equifax Data Breach
On September 7 Equifax, a credit reporting agency, disclosed that a data breach occurred through their website that has affected about 143 million individuals. According to Equifax, information that has been compromised includes names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers. Credit card numbers for 209,000 customers were also compromised.
Credit Union of America does not have specific knowledge about whose information has been compromised; however, CUA does not use Equifax to pull credit on its members. Equifax will be mailing paper notices to those individuals whose credit card numbers or dispute documents were affected, but there are several ways that you can reach out to Equifax to check the status of your personal information. The customer service number for Equifax is 866-640-2273. Equifax has also set up a website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, that you can visit to determine if you were affected and sign up for free ID theft protection and credit monitoring.
UPDATE: Equifax has made changes to their terms and conditions to remove language previously included that would exclude people from participating in a class action lawsuit for this recent breach should they choose to utilize Equifax’s ID theft protection and credit monitoring services.
TransUnion, another major credit bureau, is also offering free ID theft protection and credit monitoring via their site, www.transunion.com. Additional protective measures are outlined on their Equifax Data Breach FAQ page here: https://www.transunion.com/equifax-data-breach-faqs.
There are several things to keep in mind regarding using ID theft protection and credit monitoring offered by credit reporting bureaus. First, always read the fine print to ensure that the services meet your expectations before signing up. Make sure that any costs, the length of monitoring period being offered, or legal details meet your expectations for utilizing the services. Second, don’t rely on monitoring services as a means of preventing your personal information from being used to open accounts or loans. The purpose of a monitoring service is to alert you when something has been opened or accessed in your name, not prevent it from being opened or accessed in the first place.
You do have the option to restrict potential identity thieves from opening accounts or loans in your name, or accessing your credit report. You can do this by requesting a credit freeze on your reports with the three major credit reporting bureaus. This is a good option to consider if you are at high risk or have already been an identity theft victim, and you do not intend to open accounts or loans in the near future. It does require more work on your end to set up as well as remove should you anticipate your needs changing at a later date. Costs may also be incurred to remove or lift the freeze. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides more information on this process on their site here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs.
If you are concerned about the security of your account with CUA, we are happy to add a password to your membership that will help protect your identity for any phone calls or in branch transactions. We also encourage you to actively monitor your accounts through online banking and/or paper statements.
You can also visit annualcreditreport.com to request a truly free credit report. You can request this for free once every twelve months, and this report is a good way to not only check on any fraudulent inquiries or transactions, but also to check and make sure that legitimate records on your report are accurate.