Been hearing about the Equifax breach but wondering how it affects you and your family? Been thinking it doesn't matter if your identity is taken because you don't have anything to take anyway? Read on and you will understand that identity thieves aren't interested in what you have but in who you are...your good name, your good driving record, your clean tax and job record, and so on. That information gets a good price on the dark web where your information. and that of your children and family, can be sold hundreds of times for a good profit. Identity theft has been the number one complaint to the FTC for the last 15 years. It's a crime that is here to stay and you need to act immediately to protect yourself and your family.
WHY IT HAPPENED
This data breach could have been avoided. Equifax was advised of the vulnerability in their coding months before the data breach occurred and was even provided a patch to fix it but, for whatever reason, they failed to install the patch. Therefore this was a gross negligence on the part of Equifax. Here's a supporting article from USA Today.
WHY EQUIFAX CAN'T BE TRUSTED
If the data breach wasn't bad enough, Equifax made some very bad and shady moves once they discovered the breach on July 29, 2017. First off, they chose not to announce the breach to the general public until September 7, 2017, nearly 6 weeks after they discovered it. This allowed some of their Executives to sell off $1.8 Million worth of stock as they knew the announcement would cause their stock to plummet. Isn't that illegal? Additionally, once the breach was announced, Equifax put out a website allowing consumers to check to see if they were impacted by the breach. After checking, consumers are offered the opportunity to enroll in Equifax's own identity theft protection program for free but by doing so, initially, you were waving your right to any legal action against them. Supposedly this has been changed due to consumer pushback, but I recommend that you DO NOT enroll with their free deal for two reasons...
1. We only know what we are being told and it's just not worth the risk to find out later that this may possibly still stand true.
2. Do you really want the same company that lost your information to now be in charge of protecting it? That doesn't even make sense.
Here's a good supporting news story by Fox 8 in New Orleans LA (VIDEO)
WHO IS AFFECTED?
Currently, we are being told 143 million peoples’ information was stolen, roughly 44% of the U.S. population (some Canadians and Europeans were also affected) but that's just the initial number. Don't be surprised to see that number increase before it's all over as that is the norm with data breaches. I have personally helped hundreds of people check their breach status on the Equifax website and it's obvious to me, by the results I've personally seen, that it's likely to be a much higher number. There is definitely no prejudice as to who it affects. Babies, toddlers, teenagers as well as adults and seniors all get the response that their information "may have been impacted" (which is just a nice, soft way of telling you your information was stolen), so basically, anyone with a social security number prior to July 29, 2017 has a potential risk to worry about.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN TO YOU?
The first thing to know is that while you have been a victim of the breach, if you checked and got the message that your information "may have been impacted", you HAVE NOT yet become a victim of identity theft, meaning that no one has yet used your information for their own personal gain. But it's a pretty good bet that it will happen in the coming months and years. Let’s face it, there's a reason your information was stolen and it wasn't just to prove it could be done.
Understand that identity theft is a very lucrative and safe crime for criminals. Less than 5% of identity thieves get caught because law enforcement just doesn't know what to do about it. They can't even figure out whose jurisdiction is responsible for it. One police department will say it's the jurisdiction of the police department where you live and then they will tell you it's the jurisdiction of the police department where the crime was committed. You'll be lucky if you can get anyone to even allow you to file a report so, ultimately, it's up to you to fix this problem. According to the FTC, you will spend anywhere from $200 to up to $1,500 of your own money and up to 1,300 hours of your time fixing an identity theft problem. The FTC has a lot of great information in regards to identity theft on their website. A quick search on the FTC's website for "identity theft" yielded 720 returns for you to review. You can see them here.
THE TRUTH ABOUT IDENTITY THEFT
If you ask most people for their definition of identity theft, they will tell you that it has something to do with credit or financial. Someone uses your information to make a purchase in your name or open credit card accounts in your name and while this does happen, this is less than 30% of what's really happening out there. Your information can be used to secure jobs, get medical treatment, commit crimes, file false claims, get a driver’s license, claim your tax return and so much more and, unlike the foundation of our entire legal system that says you are innocent until proven guilty, with identity theft, you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent. I could tell you some real horror stories of how these non financial identity theft issues have caused tremendous stress in people's lives and in some cases, nearly ruin them but know this, in these types of cases you will likely need an attorney to help you get it resolved and we all know how expensive they can be. Below are some examples for you to review to get a better understanding.
BEST THINGS TO DO TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY
There are many things you can do to help protect yourself but there is nothing anyone can do to stop identity theft from happening to you. Your information is out there and anyone who tells you they can stop it from happening is simply lying to you. The best preparation you can make is to have a plan in place to fix it as soon as you find out it has happened and early detection is the key. Having said that, here are the steps I recommend you take...
1. Go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact and check yourself and each of your family members to see if your information was impacted in this breach. Whether it was impacted or not, DO NOT enroll with Equifax’s free offer.
2. Instead, I highly recommend you get you and your family enrolled with both the LegalShield plan and the IDShield plan but at the very least, the IDShield plan. Plans start as low as just $9.95 for individuals or just $19.95 for your entire immediate family. You want to do this BEFORE you become a victim of identity theft so it's not a pre-existing issue. Known pre-existing identity theft issues will still get unlimited consultations with Kroll's team of experts but the Restoration services will have additional costs, beginning around $1,000. That’s not bad but why wait if you know for a fact your information was impacted in this breach? I have thoroughly studied every single ID Theft protection plan out there and IDShield is the best because it is backed and supported by Kroll which provides FULL RESTORATION, not to be confused with resolution. For a more complete description of the services Kroll provides go to
3. The combination of both plans completely eclipses all other plans available because it's the only service that provides the legal coverage you will need to resolve most cases of identity theft. I've put my name behind these services because I know they are the best. You can get more information on these services and/or enroll by going to my website.
4. Call each of the three credit repositories and put a freeze on your accounts. There may be a fee at each one to do this but I have heard the Equifax has currently waived their fee (as they should).
Equifax - 1 800 525 6285
Experian - 1 888 397 3742
TransUnion - 1 800 680 7289
5. Change your online passwords frequently. You might be interested to know that the IDShield plan provides a password vault to help you keep track of all of your passwords for each site you use, at no additional cost.
6. Pay closer attention to your current accounts, shred any and all documents you discard that have your personal information on them and report suspicious activity as soon as you possibly can.
Again, you can protect you and your family by enrolling directly on my website..
Or call me at 202-285-5810 if you have questions or concerns. But whatever you do, DON’T WAIT. You need to activate your protection before a breach occurs. Let’s face it, in this digital age, identity theft protection is as necessary to our lives as cell phones, cars, and refrigerators!
Benefits Specialist, Small Business Consultant
LegalShield and IDShield