Equifax ad nauseum
Equifax breach talk is EVERYWHERE now. But the only thing frozen is YOU. The internet is flooded with articles on what to do about it, news updates, and how to place fraud alerts or credit freezes with Transunion, Experian, and Equifax, etc. You are probably sick of hearing about it.
But, if you are like 80% of the people potentially affected by this, YOU still have NOT taken any steps to respond to this attack on your financial data. (the sound of the needle scratching across the record)
YES, girlfriend, this IS an emergency AND a game-changer AND you have been put in alarming financial peril. This huge theft event – in combination with a multitude of other attacks on your data – will have repercussions for years (heck, decades) to come. This is no time to get annoyed, shutdown and take a nap.
This is a bona fide WAKE-UP CALL that I want you to take seriously…but, that doesn’t mean you have to ACT all serious, or anything like that. Just treat this as the REAL DEAL…but, with a small silver lining.
The Equifax Silver Lining
Believe it or not, you can turn this urgent wake-up call into at least one silver lining! So, go grab your hot tea or a serious shot of espresso and nestle in for some eye-opening, mind-numbing stuff.
THE EQUIFAX OPPORTUNITY
I’m not smoking anything. I promise. There really is an opportunity – though you might groan at it’s very suggestion! Groan or not, consider this a call to action.
The reality is that many of you reading this have been asleep at the wheel of your most precious assets – your financial well-being and your identity. If you can roll with the ‘glass half full’ mindset for the next 5 or 10 minutes, you will quickly realize this is a huge wake-up call to finally get in touch with your financial health and well-being while locking things down.
Like it or not, if you live in the United States, your financial and personal identity information are subject to many more risks and fraudulent use than in many other countries’. Until fundamental legislative changes are made in how U.S. companies and government are allowed to track our data, this is one of the ‘bass-ackwards’ prices you pay to live in this country.
So, you might as well suck it up, buttercup, and take the money journey you have long resisted.
Get Cozy with Your Finances
It’s time to get all cozy with your financial standing on a regular basis. (Did you just stop breathing?)
Tuning in, tracking, and protecting the status of your finances EVERY MONTH (notice I did NOT say quarterly or annually…something very big has changed in the market…so monthly) – this is not only going to be necessary in this new world, but it will also put you front and center of the dashboard of your financial life!
It’s also a great time to go ahead and get cuddly with your emotional relationship with money. If anything in this article has already triggered an emotional reaction in any way (irritation, fear, hysterical laughing), chances are that you are human! It just might be time for you to do some deeper explorations of any resistances or fears that arise. Here’s a free tool to learn more about your financial mindset now: Money Mindset Kit
This is a time to set yourself up for success.
But, what if you DON’T? Read on, sister!
EQUIFAX BREACH and INACTION
To respond to this breach, time is of the essence. If you find yourself reacting in one of the following ways, please slap your face a couple times and reconsider your approach:
- You are hoping for the best and choosing to ignore it with the secret wish that it will all go away.
- Sorry, your data is probably already FOR SALE on the ‘dark webs’ and it will be out there forever. Some unshaven dude in a greasy, wife beater shirt may already be looking for ways to profit from your data. This is NOT a time to go ‘ostrich’ on your financial and identity security.
- Your information was not part of this CURRENT Equifax security breach and you are hoping to just relax and carry on with normal life.
- You know it’s just a matter of time until your number is called, right? This is not a game of IF. Rather, it’s all about WHEN it will happen to you. This kind of theft will continue to increase over time.
- You feel you are too busy to pay attention to this right now or you feel overwhelmed by all that needs to be done to respond to this.
- Remember the Creighton Abrams quote: “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” You can always find time to take one small, 5-minute action in response to this breach – and you will likely feel relief for doing so.
- You have no idea where to start.
- Stick with me! This article will outline your next steps. Just do one at a time, as soon as you have time to do so.
RESPOND vs. REACT TO THE EQUIFAX BREACH
It’s easy to have an anxiety-inducing, pimple-generating, wine-bottle-reaching, emotional REACTION to this very serious credit and identity breach. After all, this could very well compromise your financial well-being for decades to come. It could also cost you hundreds of hours and months of effort to set things straight*.
(*The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates an average of 6 months and 200 hours of effort to recover and reestablish your financial and identity status pre-theft. However, this is just an average and can often span many years – and, sometimes, decades – to fully recover.)
If you are wondering what the stakes really are for inaction, here’s a SUPER FUN and SCINTILLATING shortlist for you:
Impacts from Credit Card Fraud
- Damaged credit score from credit fraud – how this could impact you:
- Higher interest rates/increased costs of credit for home loans, auto loans and credit cards (Who doesn’t want pay MORE for everything?!)
- Increased cost of home and auto insurance, or denial of coverage by insurance agencies (Gotta love Murphy’s Law!)
- Denials of offers of employment – the best employers are often hesitant to offer opportunities to those who appear to have a poor relationship with money (Trying to live off unemployment checks can be your new way to diet!)
Impacts from Identity Theft
- Driver’s License Fraud – how this could impact you:
- Fraudulent user corrupts your driving record which increases your cost of auto insurance (And, your driver’s license picture will still suck!)
- Driving citations are sent to you and the burden is on you to prove you were not the driver (Everyone loves the ‘hold music’ on the Motor Vehicle Division phone tree.)
- Passport Fraud – how this could impact you:
- Unable to leave or re-enter the country, or placed on a risk list (Bye, bye Tahiti vacation!)
- Unable to fly domestically if you are in a state with driver’s licenses that are not compliant with federal identification requirements: https://www.dhs.gov/real-id (since a passport would become the default identification requirement) (Sorry, Mom. They won’t let me on the plane. Can you FedEx the turkey and stuffing?)
- IRS Tax Fraud – how this could impact you:
- Theft of your refund – if someone else fraudulently files your return before you do (You can get it back with effort, but who wants to put their refund-financed dream trip to Hawai’i on hold?)
- Social Security Fraud – how this could impact you:
- Your SS benefits are corrupted by a fraudulent user’s earnings (Argh!)
- Your SS benefits are being tapped by someone else (disability claims, early retirement at 62, etc.) (Double Argh!)
- Your SS number is used to fraudulently to set up accounts, open credit cards, secure loans, buy homes, validate identity, establishes utilities in your name, etc. (Triple ARGH!)
- Medical Identity Fraud – how this could impact you:
- Fraudulent claims against your policy that you will have to prove were not yours (Sounds like a great way to spend a Friday!)
- Collections calls for medical bills that are not yours (Everyone loves to get harassing phone calls from bill collectors, right?!)
Emotional Impacts from Credit Card Fraud or Identity Theft
- Depression, anxiety, worry, vulnerability, emotional fatigue, frustration, anger, etc.
(You may have to meditate 24/7 for the rest of your life to deal with this!)
The longer the credit or identity theft are left unaddressed, the deeper and wider the problems could go – like dandelion seeds to the wind. Additionally, if you already have poor credit and are not on top of all your financial and identity accounts, your job of recovering will be much more difficult as you try to prove you are not at fault.
Am I trying to scare you with the above? If it gets you off your butt and taking action TODAY, then “Hell, yes, I am”. Otherwise, don’t panic. Just start taking action, now. I NEVER EVER want you to have to REACT to the above scenarios. I want something MUCH, MUCH more for you.
I want you to RESPOND! Not REACT to the Equifax breach. Responding means you take preventative action in advance. It means you make a commitment to get intimate with your financial picture and your identity assets. It means you make this a relationship which will be lovingly attended to for years to come. It means you begin building a fortress and watchtowers around your financial and identity worlds.
In today’s modern economy, your access to money and your identity are key to your survival. So, don’t play Russian roulette with your valuable assets. Please, I beg you to keep reading and take at least one small action today…and another tomorrow…and so on.
But, first, I have a favor to ask. SHARE THIS WITH OTHERS!
WHY YOU MUST SHARE “THE EQUIFAX BREACH OPPORTUNITY IN DISGUISE” WITH OTHERS
Your parents, your spouse/partner, your adult children, your friends, your colleagues, your staff ALL need to be taking action on this right away. The more educated and aware everyone is, the better.
Why you ask:
- If you own a business, joint efforts to increase financial awareness could spark actions to better lock down business data. Plus, you increase the chance your employees won’t need time off work to fight identity and financial theft.
- If you expect an inheritance from a family member or plan to leave one, efforts today could help protect those assets from fraudulent predators.
- If your spouse has been resisting sharing financial data with you or there are unhealthy issues going on in your partnership around money, this is the wake-up call you’ve been waiting for to finally get things out in the open (or stop hiding from the truth).
- If you have aging parents who are not on top of financial matters, you will likely need to help them with this. If their assets were to ever get stolen, they might quickly become your financial burden.
- If you have children, your adult children (and even your young children) also need to have identity monitoring (and credit monitoring for the adult children). Having your identity stolen right at the start of life is no fun.
- If you have friends (and I really hope you do!), show them you have their backs. Terrorize them until they take action and apply protective lockdowns and monitoring of their own data.
Remember, only 1 out of 5 adults have taken ANY action on this. Often, though, the actions are not enough.
Now, you are probably asking, “Well, what is enough?”. I will attempt to answer that question.
But, first, I must share a disclaimer: No animals or plants were harmed in the writing of this article.
Also, the following are my OPINIONS ONLY. They are NOT guarantees that nothing will happen to your credit and identity data – because something probably WILL happen at some point. The below is meant to help you take preventative action and create systems that will alert you to real time problems. When you have your financial dashboard in place, you can RESPOND in real time vs. REACT in a panicked way. Capiche?
Okay, let’s do this.
ABSOLUTE MINIMUM ACTION
in response to the Equifax breach (whether or not you were affected)
(Yep, you can start eating small bites of that elephant right here):
- Get Free Credit Reports: Request your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com . This is 100% free and is the ONLY website that is mandated and authorized by the US government. (Note: It is operated by a 3rd party – Central Source, LLC – which is joint venture between the three primary credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Transunion, and Experian.) Each of the three primary credit reporting agencies will give you ONE (1) free credit report per year.
- Tip: Only request a credit report from ONE agency every four months. For example: Transunion – January, Experian – May, Equifax – September. This will minimize some of the risk of waiting a whole year to access all your free reports, again.
- Set an Initial Fraud Alert: A fraud alert requires any credit issuing company to verify your identity before issuing credit and may help alert you to fraudulent attempts to abuse your credit or identity. You can learn more about these alerts here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert
- Contact at least one of the three primary Credit Reporting agencies and set an ‘initial fraud alert’. You can give the ‘Equifax Data Breach’ as the reason. This alert will ONLY be in place for 90 days. You must contact the agency every 90 days renew it. Sweeeet!
- When you contact Equifax, Experian or Transunion to set the ‘fraud alert’, they are required to contact the other 2 agencies. If you call them, be sure to inquire about this and VERIFY that they will do so. Otherwise, set up the FREE ‘fraud alert’ with each agency yourself.
- Record the dates, times and details of all your calls and requests to the agencies. If you make the requests online, be sure to keep printed documentation on file.
- Set up reminders to RENEW your fraud alert every 90 days.
- Extended Fraud Alerts (up to 7 years) are only available to those with documented identity theft and a filed identity theft report. See https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft for more information on this.
- The agencies to contact to set up Fraud Alerts:
- Equifax: (800)349-9960 https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp
- Experian: (888)397-3742 https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html
- TransUnion: (888)909-8872 https://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert
- And one lesser agency, if you want to cover all your bases – Innovis: (800)540-2505 https://www.innovis.com/fraudActiveDutyAlerts/index
- Monitor monthly of all your financial accounts – Credit card, Banking, Investments, Loans, Pensions, Medical, etc. Know how much is in each account and keep documentation. (I recommend you do this manually vs turning over all your login data to a 3rd party financial aggregator service like Mint, Quicken, or Personal Capital. If your savings and investment accounts ever get emptied due to theft of your password data from a 3rd party provider, you may not have remedies available through the keeper of your money. Call me conversative and overly cautious. Call me what you want. Though I have no crystal ball, I see this as a huge risk coming down the pike. I sense it could deeply impact the whole emerging fintech industry – though I REALLY hope I am wrong on this one.)
- Upgrade or update the passwords on your financial accounts – A quick online search for “how to create a secure password” will get you started in the right direction.
- Revisit the security questions on your financial accounts – Make sure the questions you’ve selected will not be easy for a thief to guess. Two little things you could do to add a tiny bit more security to your answers would be to include symbols and capitalizations inside your answers, and even type the words backwards.
- Use 2-factor authentication wherever it’s available -This is where the financial institution will text or email you a one-time code each time you attempt to log in to your account. Log in to your account now and see if it’s an option, or call your financial institution, directly.
- Keep the FTC on Speed Dial – If you do become a victim of identity theft, take FAST action. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft and https://identitytheft.gov/.
- Opt out of direct mail credit card and insurance offers. Stop letting all these companies crotch grab your credit information. You can do this by visiting optoutprescreen.com or by calling (888)5-OPTOUT. You can also visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email for more information. Mail theft is on the rise. No reason to increase the chances right in your own mailbox.
- Join me over in my Facebook group for Women Only to get support on your journey: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RockYourMoneyTree/
BETTER ACTION (Digest, and get ready to eat a little more of that elephant!):
- Do all of the above “MINIMUM ACTION”
- Consider NOT having a DEBIT card. A thief could potentially drain your bank account quickly, or make fraudulent charges that unknowingly held your liquid funds hostage for weeks, or longer. Fraudulent CREDIT charges are MUCH, MUCH easier to remedy than with DEBIT. (Our family refuses to have or use debit cards. Yes, it’s inconvenient at times. But, we’d far prefer to be inconvenienced than to have our money for daily living expenses stolen.)
- Credit Freeze: A Credit freeze blocks creditors from viewing your credit and could stop thieves from opening accounts in your name. You can learn more about credit freezes here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs . And, if you want to know the difference between a ‘credit freeze’ and a ‘fraud alert’, you might find this helpful: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/fraud-alert-or-credit-freeze-which-right-you
- Place a “Credit Freeze” with Equifax, Experian, Transunion (and even Innovis). It took me 15 to 20 minutes to do this with all three agencies.
- Fees for this service will vary by state and will depend on if you have officially filed a Theft Report (and have documentation for it). You can find details on your own state here: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/credit-freeze-information-by-state
- Equifax Credit Freeze:
- Cost: FREE due to the Equifax breach through November 21, 2017 (If this company were in integrity, this would be free for a minimum of 10 years, if not permanently. Definitely don’t invite Equifax to your next girls’ night out. They can’t be trusted with your secrets.) After that, the cost could be up to $10.
- Contact: (800)349-9960. Their system would not allow me to set up my ‘credit freeze’ by phone. I had to use their website to do so. You can go here to set up your own: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp
- Experian Credit Freeze:
- Cost: It was $10 for me. It may range from $0 to $10 for you, depending on your state.
- Contact: (888)397-3742 (Calling by phone may be more secure.) If you prefer online: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
- TransUnion Credit Freeze:
- Cost: It was FREE for me. It may range from $0 to $10 for you, depending on your state.
- Contact: (888)909-8872 (Calling by phone may be more secure and easy.) If you prefer online: https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp (Warning: At the time of publishing, TransUnion moved quickly to redesign their website in an attempt to upsell you on their ‘TrueIdentity’ product. By doing so, they made it difficult to find the ‘credit freeze’ page and have attempted to trick you into enrolling for their fee-based service. You WILL be charged if you enroll in it.)
- Innovis Credit Freeze:
- Cost: I have not yet set this one up. But, others have shared it was FREE to do so.
- Contact: (800)540-2505 or online: https://www.innovis.com/securityFreeze/
- Equifax Credit Freeze:
- Identity and Credit Monitoring Service: All 3 of the credit agencies provide their own paid service. If you think this is a conflict of interest, it is. This feels even truer with the Equifax breach. Even though they are now providing you with the option of free credit and identity monitoring for ONE YEAR (now with no credit card required), they are certainly hoping you will be lazy/feel the inertia against change and stay on as a paying customer after that 12 month period. Since your data will be out on the ‘dark webs’ for the rest of your life, you will be their most precious captive. Caveat emptor! Buyer beware! There are multiple third party providers that will also do this kind of monitoring for you. If you are a Costco member, AAA member, or a member of a large organization, you might want to see if you have access to a discounted rate. But, before you go shopping for discounts and buying on price alone, do your due diligence.
- Decide up front what you want your service to do:
- Credit monitoring or Identity monitoring or BOTH
- What accounts will be monitored?
- What forms of identity do you want monitored?
- What $$ amount of coverage is provided for legal, investigative and resolution costs?
- What $$ amount of coverage do you want if your financial accounts are breached and money is stolen?
- Research your shortlist of companies and read reviews on each
- You can find more ideas on this here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laiza-king-/how-to-choose-an-identity_b_10429240.html
- WEEKLY self-monitoring of all your financial accounts – Credit card, Banking, Investments, Loans, Pensions, Medical, etc. This includes reviewing every charge on every credit card, insurance, loan, utility, banking, investment, etc. statement each month. Don’t just abdicate this (blindly assign the duty) to your partner or spouse and hope for the best. That’s a FOOL’S GAME. I invite you to up-level your relationship with your financial world and get intimate with its details. Don’t disappoint!
- Tip: Most credit card companies only give you 60 days from the date the statement was MAILED to report fraudulent charges. In the event of a credit card breach, it’s their way of holding you equally accountable in managing the fraud risks. So, be on top of it, girlfriend!
- Did you join the ‘Rock Your Money Tree’ Facebook group, yet? https://www.facebook.com/groups/RockYourMoneyTree/ Also, if you want to stay on top of updates on this breach, be sure to “LIKE” my Money Tree Academy Page: https://www.facebook.com/MoneyTreeAcademy/
(You know this is what I most want for you and your financial life! More elephant eating!)
- Do all of the above “MINIMUM ACTION” and “BETTER ACTION”
- DAILY self-monitoring of ALL your financial accounts
– Just make it a daily habit at the end of every day. Or, if you are a morning person, that’s even better. Do your quick review in the morning as the majority of fraud is committed in the early morning hours in the US.
- Hold monthly money meetings (or “money dates”) with yourself or with your partner/spouse to hold yourself accountable to ongoing reviews of all your data.
- If something questionable appears in any area of your financial world, delegate responsibilities and snap into action. DON’T DELAY. Delay = bigger headaches and compromise of your data.
- Write your Congressional members and tell them how pissed off you feel about this.
- First, ask them to hold Equifax for the breach and make its leadership accountable for their egregious handling of this fiasco. (As it stands, it looks like the jerks are just going to retire and get away with it without penalty.)
- Second, tell your state’s U.S. Senators and House Reps you want the credit systems overhauled. It’s not enough to demand ‘Free Credit Freezes’. Rather, you want your credit frozen AT ALL TIMES, UNLESS you request that a specific company be given access to your data. Right now, you have ZERO control over what data gets stored about you or who gets to access it. It’s freely available to any financial institution that requests it. If you don’t like that, you must PAY the Big 3 to protect it. Beyond ridiculous, right?!
The BIG 3 credit agencies make billions off this arrangement – all at your peril. It’s akin to FINANCIAL ASSAULT. Talk about rigged system!!!
You and I both deserve more control over what data gets stored on us and how it gets used. Right now, we are very powerless and are placed in jeopardy, like this Equifax breach, with increasing frequency. (The EU – European Union – gives it citizens much more control over their own data and they do not suffer the levels of risk that we do, daily.)
You can learn more about the Equifax breach and our broken system here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-equifax-disaster-points-to-a-much-bigger-problem/2017/09/21/4bd683da-9ee3-11e7-9083-fbfddf6804c2_story.html?utm_term=.dec340ad058a
Keep in mind, all that I have written above is just a start – a STRONG start. There will be many more holes to plug in the coming weeks and months as reality sinks in across the market.
Sound like a LOT to do?! Well, it IS! I want you to know that I’ll be elephant-eating with you as I research and set up some of the more advanced actions (like which credit monitoring system to use). You will not be alone! Be sure to join me over on my Facebook group so we can keep each other updated on developments regarding this breach: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RockYourMoneyTree/
STILL WITH ME ON THIS EQUIFAX BREACH FIASCO?
Wow, you’ve made it this far into the article without falling asleep or getting irritated and tuning out! That’s impressive. If you are not overwhelmed by all the steps to take, well, blow me over with a feather! It’s a LOT to take on. Even for me. And, if you feel supremely pissed off about having to do all this….because of government and corporate negligence and greed…you are in good company.
I.AM.PISSED.OFF. It’s okay say it. You are most entitled to this feeling. Let it come out.
Then, let’s get back to business. Especially, the ‘glass half full’ silver lining part.
When you take these steps to lock down and tune in with your own financial world, just imagine what could manifest for you:
- By monitoring things daily, weekly, or monthly, you may notice small fees, changes to services you had not known were there, or old subscriptions you no longer use. You can then take action to eliminate these drains on your finances.
- You pay more attention to your credit accounts and may even find some old accounts or issues that need cleaning up (which will often increase your credit score, lower your cost of credit, and maybe even increase your cash flow when as a result).
- You file your taxes early. The valid concern that an identity thief could beat you to your tax refund spurs you into action. (By the way, if this ever happens to you, there are remedies. But, again, it’s a burden on your precious time, energy and money to get resolution.)
- Your whole family gets on the wagon and starts being more financially responsible and communicative about things. You and your honey talk money. Even the kids (if you have ‘em) absorb intuitively the value of strong financial awareness.
- You help your parents lock down their own data for a more secure future in old age.
- You feel more at ease about the security of your identity, credit, and financials and have a plan if things go awry.
- You communicate with your Congressional members and help influence financial legislation that affects women, families, your parents, etc.
- And, (gasp)…by paying better attention to your financial life, you start to build wealth and get rich! Money grows when you give it loving attention! Trust me on this, girlfriend!
You CAN turn this into something good for yourself, if you will choose it.
Equifax Stock LOL!
Hey, one last little note here – in the slight chance you are thinking about scooping up some stressed Equifax stock (at below normal market levels) – use great caution AND only do so with your play money.
Equifax currently has 100+ (and growing) class-action lawsuits filed against them. They are also now under investigation by Congressional bodies, the FTC, the FBI, the Department of Justice, state Attorney Generals. Additionally, organizations in Canada and the UK are also now involved. Some say things will only get worse for Equifax, and could lead to bankruptcy or a takeover.
If you know how to profit off their downfall or demise, go for it. Just saying, Caveat Emptor! Buyer Beware!
Like this article? Learn more about Money Tree Academy at Money Tree Academy.