Approximately half of the U.S. population is at risk of identity theft after an estimated 143 million Americans’ personal information was compromised through an online security flaw found in an Equifax web application.
Hackers took advantage of the flaw during a three-month window in mid-2017 to access information that included Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, credit card numbers and driver’s license information. The breach was first discovered on July 29 and Equifax alerted the public to the situation on Sept. 7.
Equifax is one of the major credit reporting agencies. These agencies gather information regarding your credit history, such as payment history, amount of debt, balance-to-credit-limit ratio, total number of accounts and number of credit or loan applications you’ve completed. These agencies then provide your personal information and credit history to lenders and creditors to help them make a decision when you apply for a loan or a credit card.
The incident is one of the biggest data breaches of all time, and has prompted Equifax to create a website for potential victims to check whether they were affected, as well as offer credit monitoring services. However, there are other steps you should take to monitor your credit report and protect your identity and personal information, including using services available to you as a member of FSU Credit Union.
Steps You Should Take
Potential victims should monitor their vulnerability following the breach. First, everyone should visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and confirm whether their information could have been compromised. Equifax recently created the site to inform victims of their status. After you provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, you’ll receive a message indicating whether your personal information was impacted.
Second, you should review your credit report. This is a smart idea whether you were impacted by the Equifax security breach or not. You’re eligible by federal law to receive one free credit report every 12 months from each of the credit reporting agencies. When reviewing your report, keep an eye out for anything that seems unusual, such as accounts that you didn’t open, rejected applications you didn’t submit and debt that you know you haven’t accumulated.
Third, you should consider ways to proactively protect yourself and your identity. You could contact the credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert on your credit file if you were impacted by the breach. The alert lasts for 90 days and requires lenders and creditors to take extra measures to confirm your identity before opening any accounts in your name. A more extreme measure would be to freeze your credit file with the credit reporting agencies. There are also several credit monitoring and identity theft protection services, including one available through FSU Credit Union.
How FSU Credit Union Can Help
FSU Credit Union members are eligible to receive discounted identity theft protection services through CyberScout. CyberScout monitors your personal information and alerts you if unusual or fraudulent activity is detected, while providing 24/7 support resolution support from fraud specialists.
CyberScout offers personal credit monitoring, document replacement and reimbursement of up to $25,000 to cover expenses that include attorney’s fees, lost wages and loan reapplication fees in the event that your identity is stolen. CyberScout is available to FSU Credit Union members for just $3.95 per month.
If you are an FSU Credit Union member and would like to enroll with CyberScout now to start receiving identity theft protection services at the discounted rate, visit our Identity Theft Protection page to get started.
FSU Credit Union offers another service to monitor spending on your credit and debit cards in real time. With Alert U, you can receive text message and email notifications when your card is used for purchases over a selected amount, international purchases, online purchases and declined purchases. Alert U is free and easy to use. For more information, or to enroll your card(s), visit our Online Alerts page.
Should You Freeze Your Credit?
Freezing your credit is an extreme measure to protect your identity, but is also a surefire way to prevent anyone from opening loans, credit cards or financial accounts in your name. If you think your information is at risk of being used, and fraudulent activity is imminent, you should consider freezing your accounts. To freeze your credit, you need to contact all four credit reporting agencies directly. Here’s how you can contact them:
Equifax: Call 1-800-349-9960 or visit Freeze.equifax.com
Experian: Call 1-888-397-3742 or visit Experian.com/news/security-freeze.html
TransUnion: Call 1-888-909-8872 or visit Transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze
Innovis: Call 1-800-540-2505 or visit Innovis.com/personal/securityfreeze
There may be a fee associated with freezing your credit, and you’ll need to contact the agencies again to unfreeze your credit before applying for loans or credit cards.
If you feel like an account you have with FSU Credit Union has been compromised, contact us immediately. Members should call 877-GO-FSUCU during business hours or 888-918-7774 after hours and on weekends to alert an FSU Credit Union team member to your situation.
*The content provided in this article consists of the opinions and ideas of FSU Credit Union, does not constitute legal or financial advice, and should be used for informational purposes only. Any decisions you make based on the information contained in this article is made in your sole discretion and liability. FSU Credit Union disclaims any damages or liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.