Since news broke of the Equifax breach in September, the airwaves and Internet have been filled with reports on just how widespread the damages are. Not only were the records of 43 million Americans exposed, but consumers all over the world are feeling the impact as well.
While a cyberattack of this scale is rare, the fact is that smaller data breaches occur all the time. Fortunately, there are steps you can take as a consumer to both better secure your own data and lessen the impact of a breach should your records get compromised.
To help you stay safe in cyberspace, CO-OP Financial Services has created an Equifax Breach FAQ, with strategies and resources to help you secure personal data. We share a few important tips below, but we encourage you to access the FAQ in its entirety for a more complete list of security best practices.
5 Steps to Take Now
- Check to see if you are impacted by the Equifax breach
With so many records exposed, every U.S. consumer should take this step. Equifax has an online tool you can use to quickly and easily confirm whether you are impacted.
- Review credit reports regularly
All consumers should review their credit reports These reports offer valuable information about your credit history, and will reveal whether any unauthorized accounts are opened in your name.
- Consider enrolling in TrustedID Premier, an identity theft and credit file monitoring service
Equifax is offering to cover the cost of this service for all U.S. consumers for one year – whether or not their records were impacted by the breach. You must enroll by January 31, 2018 to take advantage of this offer.
- Freeze your credit
Freezing your credit will prevent anyone from opening accounts in your name. Information on how to file a credit freeze can be found on the following credit bureau sites:
- Place a fraud alert on your credit report
A fraud alert automatically notifies lenders and creditors who pull your report to take additional steps to verify your identity before extending a credit line or loan in your name.
4 Ways to Secure Data Going Forward
- You’ve Got Mail – Handle It Safely
One of the best ways to avoid getting hacked is to interact with e-mails cautiously.
Links and attachments that appear to come from known entities, including businesses you patronize, may in fact be phishing e-mails – correspondences from fraudsters designed to look like offers from legitimate organizations.
Clicking on a fraudster’s link or opening a fraudster’s attachment can introduce malware into your system, allowing criminals to steal account numbers, user names, passwords and other personal data.
Follow these rules for safe e-mail practices:
- Don’t click on links in e-mails. Instead, type the website address directly into your web browser – or use a search engine such as Google to access the site.
- Never open attachments you were not expecting to receive, regardless of the sender. If you believe you must open an unsolicited attachment, scan it for viruses first.
- Ensure Password Protection
Use different passwords for different websites. While it is more complicated to manage multiple logins, using the same password from site to site can give a fraudster access to all your accounts if he or she can crack the code.
Consider using a tool that allows you to set different passwords across multiple websites, while requiring you to remember only one strong password. Your credit union can help.
- Secure Systems and Software
Fraud advances and evolves over time, which is why it is extremely important to keep personal computers and phones patched and up to date.
Install the current versions of Windows and Mac operating systems, and update applications such as Office, Adobe and Java as well.
Use your computer’s built-in firewall, turn on encryption, and load anti-virus software from a reputable company (hackers have been known to create their own fake anti-virus software).
- Leverage Your Credit Union’s Resources
Ask about new payments technologies, including Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, as using these mobile apps at checkout can keep sensitive card data out of a fraudster’s reach.
Request a mobile app for card controls and alerts, which will allow you to specify exactly when, where and how your cards can be used – and to receive alerts about transactions.
In the fight against fraud, information is powerful. Keeping close tabs on cards and accounts can dramatically reduce your risks and help protect your identity going forward.
For more information on how to help secure your personal data, access CO-OP’s Equifax Beach FAQ.