Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies in the United States, has announced one of the largest data breaches in history. According to Equifax, the breach occurred between mid-May and July 2017 and may have affected almost half the US population. The information accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers.
Because credit reporting agencies get their data from credit card companies, banks, retailers, and lenders who report to them, you are likely a customer of Equifax, even if you haven’t contacted the company yourself. You should be vigilant in monitoring your financial data going forward. Here are some steps you can take:
Equifax is offering a complimentary identity theft and credit file monitoring service for one year in response to the data breach. The service is available to anyone, regardless of whether or not your information was affected. Go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com for instructions about enrollment. Please note that you may, however, forfeit your right to participate in any class action suit against Equifax as a condition of using this free service.
Make it a habit to carefully review all your financial statements for suspicious activity. Take this a step further with your credit cards and set up alerts, if available, that let you know if an online transaction has occurred, or if a transaction exceeds a certain spending threshold.
All three credit agencies offer this free service and it may be a good idea after a large data breach such as the one that Equifax has just reported. You can use this site to place an alert and all three agencies will be notified. The service lasts for 90 days and can be discontinued at any time or renewed for free. Keep in mind that you may have to take extra steps to prove your identity when applying for credit or for a loan when this service is active.
Yes, it is a real pain to keep track of multiple less-than-memorable passwords, but it is worth the extra effort. Use different passwords for each of your accounts and make them strong.
Information shared on social media sites can raise your chances for becoming a victim of identity theft. At the very least, do not share your birthdate or hometown information through these channels, and take the time to tighten your privacy settings on each platform.
If you have any questions about how you can better protect your identity, please reach out to your advisor. If you ever become aware that you’ve become a victim of identity theft, please contact TGS immediately so that we can place an alert on your Raymond James accounts.
To read and learn more about protecting your identity, please visit the Raymond James Bank Consumer Education page for online security tips and the Federal Trades Commission’s Identity Theft Protection Services page.
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