In early October, Equifax announced another 2.5 million consumers’ data was stolen bringing the total to 145.5 million people. The data stolen includes names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers, credit card numbers, and in some cases driver’s license numbers. Chances are, most adult Americans were victimized by this data theft. Let’s look at what’s changed, what to do, and how this relates to your home and car insurance.
What’s Changed: Aside from the increase in the number of people whose data was stolen Equifax has extended two dates important to each of us.
- The date to sign up for the free monitoring service has been extended to January 31, 2018. If you went to the website to determine if you’d been hacked, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, and were told you were not affected, go back and check again. You may be in the most recently announced group of people identified by Equifax.
- You also have until January 31st to sign up for the free credit freeze from Equifax. I suggest you have your credit frozen with the other credit bureaus too. It may cost a little to have that done, but you’ll certainly worry less if you do.
- In addition, Equifax will offer a free credit lock for life service which can be accessed with your smartphone or computer. You’ll be able to lock and unlock your Equifax credit file. Consider doing this with the other credit bureaus.
To Do: Here are five actions to take whether your file was or wasn’t compromised in the Equifax breach.
- Pull a free credit report every four months from one of the three credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. This gives you a rolling snapshot of your credit and enables you to spot suspicious activity.
- Consider a security freeze so no information can be released from your files without your permission.
- Have a security alert placed on your accounts. This puts a flag on your accounts and shows extra steps are needed to protect your security.
- Get a fraud alert through each of the credit bureaus which provides real-time alerts if someone tries to open an account in your name.
- Use your bank’s mobile app and set it up to text alerts to you for any activity and monitor all transactions.
Insurance Relationship: Most states allow insurance companies to use credit as a rating factor for your home and car insurance policies. If your identity has been stolen, the thief can not only trash your credit by opening fake accounts and obtaining loans in your name, they can also file false claims using your identity. This can impact not only what you pay for home and car insurance, but also your ability to get it.
There are two types of home and renter’s insurance options worth considering, credit card fraud and identity theft coverage. Neither of these options cost a lot, usually $25 a year or less depending on the carrier, and can provide financial help in rectifying losses and cleaning up the theft of your identity. Add the identity theft coverage once the free offer from Equifax expires.
The Equifax hack, as well as, the hacks of the IRS, Target, Home Depot, Neiman Marcus, etc. reveal this problem is only beginning and will continue. Taking the right steps now can free you from a time consuming and costly headache later. What are you doing to protect yourself? Share those actions, along with your questions, comments, and suggestions on my Facebook, Google +, and LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!