Financial Friday: Protecting Your Finances During a Data Breach
Hackers were able to access information from Equifax, one of the three major U.S. consumer credit agencies. Nearly half of all American residents may have had their data taken, and thieves can use that data to apply for credit and/or file tax returns in your name. If thieves ruin your credit, it could affect your ability to rent an apartment, get a job and get credit in the future, so this breach is serious.
Were you part of the unlucky half?
Use Equifax’s online tool to check your last name and last six digits of your social security number. Check every last name that you have ever had. The tool is not definitive, but it tells you whether you may have been impacted. Regardless of whether or not you were affected, you will be given the option to sign up for the year of free fraud protection monitoring offered on its website under the name TrustedID. Whether you chose to use their free year of service or go another route with your fraud protection monitoring, it is recommended that you get a free copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus.
What should I do?
- Carefully monitor your bank and loan statements and credit card accounts.
- Sign up for alerts with those institutions.
- Make sure that Experion and Transunion, the other two credit agencies, have a fraud alert on your file.
- If you will not be applying for credit soon, consider freezing your credit.
- Apply for an IP PIN with the IRS for the upcoming tax season in November, and file your taxes early next year.
No amount of preparation is foolproof, but these steps will increase your odds of staying financially safe.
Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., is Chair of the Accounting Department and associate professor of taxation and accounting. Betty Thorne, Ph.D., is a professor of statistics and the Christian R. Lindback Chair of Business Administration. They write Financial Fridays to bolster students’ financial wellness, including preventing financial mistakes, safeguarding their assets and identity, and thinking critically about financial decisions. For questions, contact Valrie Chambers at Valrie.email@example.com.