As we have all heard in the news over the past several days, credit reporting agency Equifax was apparently hacked earlier in the summer of this year. Many members are understandably concerned about what they can do to protect their personal confidential information from fraud. Our staff has been involved in numerous webinars, discussions and read many articles about what to do if a person is concerned. Bottom line, there is no 100% certain bulletproof course of action, but there are steps that can be taken to protect your good name. Here are some suggested best practices for you to consider if you choose to take action.
Place a FRAUD ALERT on your credit reports. These last for 90 days and the member must contact the credit bureaus again to extend the fraud alert if you want it to extend past 90 days.
–Equifax: call 800.525.6285 or go to https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp;
–Experian: call 888.397.3742 or go to https://www.experian.com/fraud/center.html;
–TransUnion: call 800.680.7289 or go to https://www.transunion.com/fraud-victim-resource/place-fraud-alert.
Members need to contact Innovis separately to place a fraud alert with that agency:
- Call 800.540.2505 or go to https://www.innovis.com/fraudActiveDutyAlerts/index
A fraud alert requires potential creditors to contact the consumer and obtain permission to open new accounts or lines of credit. By law, consumers are allowed to request a fraud alert every 90 days; after 90 days, they must repeat the process. With documentation showing they are an ID theft victim (e.g. a police report), an extended fraud alert may be placed on their reports; an extended alert lasts seven years.
If a member wants something more significant than a 90 day alert, then the recommendation is to place a security freeze on your credit report with all four reporting bureaus. If you place a FREEZE, then you will not be able to apply for credit or a loan without personally contacting the credit bureau and ‘unfreezing’ your credit a couple days before applying for credit or a loan. Then you will have to ‘re-freeze’ your credit after the credit bureau has accessed your report to insure it is secure and no other imposters can access your credit information. You are assigned a PIN (Personal Identification Number) from each of the individual credit bureaus that you must keep and there often is a small fee to freeze your report per agency. Approximately $5-10 per agency seems to be the norm for credit freezes.
Recommend members place a security freeze on their credit reports at all four credit reporting bureaus:
Phone numbers to do the same:
Protect the PIN! The PIN is required to thaw or unfreeze a report. Recommended to store the PIN in two separate secure locations. Check state specific details; some states freeze for free and some charge a fee.
Check credit reports annually at annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228. Credit reports show personal information as well as lines of credit and accounts. Recommended to stagger the review by pulling one report every 4 months, to catch any “new” or suspicious accounts more quickly.
Consider getting electronic account alerts so you know each time a check clears or each time your debit card is used at a merchant. TelComm CU offers the FREE CardValet mobile app for your TelComm debit and credit card transactions. Download the CardValet app and set your own preferences for notifications. TelComm CU also offers M Teller so you can get alerts sent to your phone or email regarding your savings and checking transactions. Check out M Teller on our website at https://telcommcu.com/benefits/internet-branch/#m-teller and sign up.
Finally, be sure to file your taxes as soon as possible and be aware of when you SHOULD receive a refund if applicable. Crooks may try to file taxes pretending to be you and then possibly intercept a refund if you should get one. Additionally, make an effort to double check your medical records and insurance information when you go to the doctor’s office or if you are hospitalized. Fraudsters may try to change your address to create a new identity or they may alter your name in some fashion to create a new identity. If you have lived in the same home for 20 years you probably don’t double check your mailing address super closely or your phone number etc. Identity theft can occur in the form of fake credit cards, fake loans, fake tax filing, fake medical records and fraud….the list goes on and on. The absolute best credit monitoring is the monitoring members do themselves!