There have been fewer headlines in the news recently regarding the Equifax breach that was announced in September, but that doesn’t mean the threat has passed. In fact, it’s very much the opposite. For the 145.5 million people affected by the breach, the threat is lifelong. In this blog post, I will explain why the threat is ongoing and offer a few suggestions of things you can do to mitigate the risk of identity theft.
Why the Threat Persists
A Seattle woman says her identity has been stolen 15 times since the Equifax breach. It started with a credit line at Barneys New York and then she got similar letters from Kohl’s, Macy’s, Home Depot and Old Navy, alerting her to credit applications submitted in her name. She’s since filed a class action lawsuit against Equifax for negligence. But just because her identity was stolen so soon after the breach doesn’t mean that’s how it will happen for everyone affected.
Once hackers have access to your Social Security number, name, date of birth and other info stolen in the Equifax hack, “it is at the cyber thieves’ disposal forever to cause harm,” according to this USA Today story.
You may have heard the statistic that the breach impacts half of Americans, but of the people who have a credit report, it’s a much higher percentage, according to this Employee Benefit Adviser story, which pegs the number at “close to 80 percent of working Americans” who “now may have their name, Social Security number and date of birth in the hands of fraudsters.”
What You Can Do
1. Credit Monitoring
This is easy to do for free and it’s silly to pay a company to do this. (Instead, consider paying for a membership to a restoration company — someone who will fix the damage if your identity is stolen.) Just remember, the threat is ongoing. It’s not going to do you any good to watch this closely for a few months and then get complacent and stop.
2. Keep Watch
You should keep a close eye on your bank and investment statements. Consider looking at them weekly rather than monthly. Also, watch the Explanation of Benefits statements from your health insurance company. Basically, you need to be hypervigilant.
3. Freeze Your Credit
Yes, you could and probably should freeze your credit (we explain how to do it here). And be sure you freeze your credit instead of locking it. For the lowdown on the difference between the two, check this out. The credit bureaus are pushing people to lock their credit rather than freeze it, but a freeze is definitely the better route.
But it’s important to note that while a credit freeze might be a good line of defense, there are also limitations. While it does help prevent some new accounts requiring a credit check from being opened (not all new accounts require a credit check), it doesn’t safeguard the accounts you already have open. Plus, it won’t prevent all types of identity theft.
That’s worth repeating: There are many serious forms of identity theft that won’t show up on your credit report, including criminal identity theft, Social Security identity theft, employment identity theft, tax identity theft and medical identity theft. Again, a credit freeze is only one defense against identity theft.
4. Sign Up for a Restoration Membership
Did you know the average identity theft victim spends 200+ hours trying to repair the damage?
If you have a membership for identity restoration, that time is significantly reduced. LibertyID is an identity restoration company. There’s no limit to the time or money we will spend restoring your identity to pre-event status. If you’re a LibertyID member and your identity is stolen, we will fix it.
A certified restoration specialist will handle all of the legwork (like submitting disputes to lending institutions, utility companies, cell phone carriers, etc. and researching and documenting erroneous info on your credit file and having it removed). They will keep you informed with regular status updates.
The bottom line is there’s really no better time than the present to become a LibertyID member. LibertyID provides expert, full service, fully managed identity theft restoration to individuals, couples, extended families* and businesses. LibertyID has a 100% success rate in resolving all forms of identity fraud on behalf of our subscribers.
*Extended families – primary individual, their spouse/partner, both sets of parents (including those that have been deceased for up to a year), and all children under the age of 25