Equifax Hack

Equifax Hack

Published On: September 22, 2017

Written by: Ben Atwater and Matt Malick

On September 8th, Equifax, one of three major credit reporting agencies, announced that hackers accessed their systems in one of the most widespread data breaches to date.  Hackers allegedly stole names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers for as many as 143 million American consumers.

Understandably, a number of clients have expressed concern about the security of their Fidelity accounts and their personal credit profile.

To be clear, your investment accounts should not be specifically impacted by the Equifax hack.  Credit reports don’t generally include information about assets; only liabilities like mortgages, car loans and credit cards.

Nevertheless, to protect your Fidelity accounts specifically, and your financial identity overall, we recommend the following steps:

  • Change your password on Fidelity.com and any other websites that you use to view financial accounts online (bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages, credit cards, etc.).  We also highly recommend changing these passwords on a regular basis, say every 3 months.
  • You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).  Review these in detail now, and at least annually, for you, your spouse and any adult dependents.
  • Similarly, consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service to stay apprised of all credit activity.  Credit Karma, LifeLock and WalletHub are just a few examples of credit monitoring providers.  Some credit card and insurance companies also offer comparable services.  It’s important to keep in mind that you may not discover illegitimate credit activity until the horse has already left the barn.  In other words, notice of an illicit credit application may not reach you until fraudsters have already opened an account in your name.  But, these services at least offer you the opportunity to take action if they find scammers using your identity.

These three steps should help avoid or at least minimize the impact of a possible identity theft.  For those who wish to be more thorough, further actions are available, such as freezing your credit altogether and requesting an IRS PIN number to prevent a false tax return, but these additional steps can also be inconvenient.

As always, please contact us with questions or concerns about your specific situation.

 

Please visit www.atwatermalick.com/ria for full disclosure materials related to recommendations contained in this update.

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