Alert! Whether you realize it or not, your personal identification has probably been compromised in the Equifax breach. Millions of people’s identifying factors, like social security number, were stolen during this unprecedented security hack of 2017. Although the attackers’ motive was hypothesized to have been financially driven, your identity will be at risk both now and in the future, as it is easy and profitable to sell stolen identities. So, how do you know if your identity has been stolen? And, what should you do if it has? Here are the answers to get you started.
How do you know whether your identity was compromised during the Equifax breach (or at any other time)? Unfortunately, you should assume your information has been compromised. Regardless of whether you have confirmation right now, your identification factors may have been stolen but not yet used. Therefore, everyone should operate under the assumption that their identity has, in fact, been stolen.
Proof of stolen identity can come in the form of a credit check. CreditKarma.com is an excellent site that offers free credit scores, so you can determine whether someone has falsely used your identity and committed fraud. It is also important to keep a close eye on your credit card purchases. A predominant number of fraud thieves test your credit card by charging small amounts, like $1, first. These small purchases are red flags that typically occur just before the thief starts charging many and large purchases to your name. The first step in keeping your identity safe is being aware–check your credit and your credit cards frequently.
Requesting a credit freeze is an intelligent choice during these uncertain times after the Equifax breach of information. You can freeze your credit so that no one can take out any new lines of credit in your name. While frozen, running a credit check would result in a blank page. Of course, if you wanted to buy a new car, home, or take out any line of credit, you could temporarily unfreeze your credit in order to do so.
Freezing your credit may seem like an inconvenience, but how often do you take out lines of credit versus how frequently could you be a victim of identity theft? The small annoyance of freezing and unfreezing is worth the slight hassle, given that it can save you from serious fraud headaches and claims.
Another scam for which to be aware during this time post-Equifax breach is phishing. Let’s say you were one of the lucky few who did not have their information compromised but recently received an email relating to the breach that claimed to check your status with a simple verification of your personal identification. You may not realize that by clicking a link or entering your information, you have just had your identity stolen. This, and many more, attempts at phishing are at a high threat level, playing off the heightened fear and uncertainty due to the breach.
To keep yourself (and your identity) safe from phishing, never click links in emails unless you are certain it is safe. And, never enter your personal information into a website unless you choose to navigate there yourself. False Equifax pages, credit report pages, and identity theft check pages pop up continually during this time post-Equifax breach, but few are legitimate. In general, if you did not initiate the contact, do not engage.
There are trustworthy technologies to help keep your identity safe. LastPass is one of them. This advanced system for safely storing your myriad of passwords is the number one method available today. Reliable, trustworthy, and not too costly, this technology can work seamlessly on your computer, phone, and most other devices.
Creating unpredictable, strong passwords is an excellent way to keep your information safe from fraud, but the human mind can only remember so many passwords, characters, and digits. LastPass allows you to create unbreakable passwords that you don’t have to remember.
Strong passwords are ones that incorporate letters, numbers, and special characters. They should be challenging to guess, so stay away from addresses and pet names, which are very predictable. Using a phrase with sprinkled in numbers and characters is ideal. For example, MyFavoriteColorI$Green7 is a strong password but still easy enough to remember if needed.
In short, your basic steps to keeping your identity safe now and in the future:
- Check your credit frequently.
- Check your credit card purchases frequently.
- Avoid phishing scams.
- Use strong passwords and change them frequently.
In our post-Equifax-breach world, assuming your identity is safe is, unfortunately, unrealistic. Steps must be taken to guard your personal identification and protect yourself from identity theft. Fraud is everywhere, but you can fight back with a little know-how and fastidious nature.
Shred Alaska Can Help
Please contact us at Shred Alaska, Inc. to discuss the best options for safely and completely destroying information on any form of media to keep your business and personal information private.
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