Equifax Breach: When Big Dogs Take a BiteSubmitted by Stone House Investment Management, LLC on September 18th, 2017
The following is a message from Stone House Investment Management, LLC Director of Financial Planning/Senior Advisor/Partner, Robert J. Brown.
I've avoided writing anything on this topic for one simple reason: I don't like writing about things that I cannot help to make better. However, with all the ugly issues that have surfaced around the Equifax breach recently, I feel compelled to, at very least, share my thoughts about a way forward from here.
Let me start by assuming that you've already heard about this breach that occurred within one of the three main credit bureaus, Equifax. It was publicly announced this past week, although it occurred many weeks ago. If you've not heard of it, a simple search of "Equifax breach" on the internet and will bombard you with many articles.
Quite some time ago, I made it a point to lock down my own personal credit through all of the three big credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Although I know this does not remove all risk from my life, it does take away some of it. Sometimes, peace of mind can have unintended consequences. For example, I just recently switched phone carriers for my entire family. Anyone who has gone through that process knows it can be painful. However, I had an additional hurdle to jump over as I had to unlock my credit so the new carrier could proceed. Yes, it added more time to what already seemed like an arduous activity. But when you weigh that against the hours, days, and weeks that I've seen people have to go through as a result of identity theft... I'd say it was well worth the added protection.
This past week, like many of us, I reviewed the Equifax site, read through their apologies and enrolled in their "free" protection program. I know I was being proactive and doing what likely is the right thing to do... from this point at least. The irony, however, was not lost on me. Most of our adult lives are spent building our reputation (via "credit scores") and these scores dictate our ability to navigate through financial matters and opportunities. These behemoth credit bureaus are ‘guardians of our information’ and without their favorable scores, life can be a struggle.
So, there I sat and wondered, "If THEY are not safe, who is?”. The reality is that all three of these credit bureaus are likely subject to the same kind of issues; although to date, the others have not been breached…as far as we know.
So, in today's reality, what can we do? In our office, we preach about being proactive. Yes, even if you are ‘off the grid’ as much as possible, you still are susceptible to cyber crimes and identity theft; don't kid yourself. Stay on top of your accounts to the best of your ability. Credit bureaus, credit card companies, and other institutions are all learning how to protect, mitigate, and manage events like this, but it is evident that no one is impenetrable or immune to attacks. Stay on top of your matters. Know where your risks are, set up alerts, if possible, and pay attention to red flags when they pop up.
In light of this Equifax breach, I would suggest paying very close attention to two things:
1. Phishing Emails - Be wary of any emails coming to your inbox claiming to be from Equifax, your bank, or another institution. Companies of this sort rarely use emails as a preferred means of communication during security matters; they most likely send you a letter in the mail.
2. Your Tax Return - Someone who had most of your personal information could file a tax return for you; which doesn't sound so bad, right? Just remember, they're not going to be paying your taxes. Instead, they would be staking their claim to your refund!
You've worked hard to build your wealth, now stay alert to keep it! If you have questions about how to lock your credit at the three reporting bureaus, or how to enroll in credit monitoring, please give your Stone House advisor a call.
Let our team become your team!