The story broke last week that Equifax, one of the major three credit reporting agencies in the U.S., was hacked.
Well not just hacked…they stole lots of data. 143 million customers have been affected, with an unknown financial toll for those affected. That’s HALF of the population of the US…and there are some overseas and Canadian customers who are affected as well.
In March, Equifax was notified of a vulnerability on their software and did not take action on it. The hackers, knowing the vulnerability, were able to gain access to those records.
It took Equifax this long since the data breach to let everyone know. Well that’s not as bad as Yahoo!, who took YEARS to let us know they had been hacked.
As a credit reporting agency, Equifax was entrusted with the details of many Americans, even if they did not have a credit card or a loan.
So what does this mean to the average consumer? Hackers may have your SSN and other confidential data, as well as your birthdate giving them an easy route to getting credit in your name.
As of today, there is a website where you can check to see if you are affected by this breach.
After entering your last name and the last 6 digits of your social, it will let you know if you have been affected.
Once that is confirmed, then you can sign up for their “complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring”.
One time, a few years back, I had filled up at the Flying J in Thousand Palms. The machine did not print a receipt and I went inside to get one. The woman behind the counter insisted I give her my card. She ducked a little low and then handed me the card back with a receipt. Two weeks later, I had a $425 charge at a Home Depot in the Los Angeles area.
When she ducked down, she had a CARD COPIER under the register. The officer who took the police report told me that the same thing had happened to her from the same station.
I learned to NEVER give someone my card unless it’s at a restaurant, and even then, I probably should get a separate account that only keeps $100 in it for when I have to turn the card over to someone who has to leave my sight. And next time, I will just take a pic of the gas pump LCD and use that. It’s what I should have done that day.
So, as a computer geek who preaches constantly on the necessity of security and not getting your computer infested, here are some of my suggestions…
1) Make sure that you do NOT admit to being a part of this identity theft ANYWHERE on social or other media. Why? If a hacker has your social security number and wants to confirm that they have VALID data, how hard is it to get to your social media accounts and check? If you admit that you are part if that data breach, they can move faster than you think. How about a pic for a fake ID? After all, how many of us have them up on our Facebook pages? Stay quiet on Social Media!!!
2) Most of us have Costco memberships. Costco has ID theft preventions services for members starting at $8.99 a month for Executive Members and $13.99 for Gold Star Members. Get that if you are affected. (https://completeid.com/theft-protection/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw0ejNBRCYARIsACEBhDMaApRgUrAdR_is8VKxUG7YSUrsAWtnGlILVjcHGDBWHkoMz_5KXU0aAu7SEALw_wcB)
3) Be aware of phishing and other emails that might show up. ALWAYS check to make sure that the sender is from the actual business entity that is supposedly asking for information or sending you a warning. I am going to bet that we see a ton of those emails stating that you need to confirm your identity due to the data breach and trust me, it’s a trap for you to enter your information. Or worse, it’s a virus link looking for a place to happen.
4) Let’s talk about Social Media. Beware of friend requests from people you do not know. This is another way for hackers to access information that you might not want to share. Make sure that your personal address, phone number and such has been scrubbed off of Facebook and any other account that the public can locate. For me, I have a P.O. Box and that is listed as my business address. That still had someone trying to use it as their own. Cost me a few bucks but I had to get a new one. So much for trusting my “friends” on Facebook…
If I get a weird friend request I literally just report the account as a fake and let Facebook handle the due diligence of verifying the account. I won’t accept a request until that’s done. And even then, as a writer, blogger, consultant and photographer as well as a web designer, some are just folks looking to steal photos and other information to call it their own.
Sure signs: it’s tons of pics of women and the account is registered as a male
5) Remind your kids to NOT divulge ANY personal information – you did see my last email and blog post about smart toys? At no time should anyone be able to give out information using one of those broadcasting services. For instance, your kid starts a broadcast with their school shirt on. The creeps get the last name and BINGO, you have a breach. Now they know what school your kid goes to and the last name. Some gamers have even been “swatted” – the term used to get the entire SWAT team to break down a door using a false report and the real address.
6) Make sure your router is secure. Do not leave your router with an open wifi signal as anyone with knowledge can hack the devices and computers looking for information.
7) Call me, you read this far down so, the first TEN clients to call get a special…
8) Thank you all for the past ten years….this is one awesome ride!!
I can help you with your router security, scanning your computer for viruses and malware and making sure that your social media is scrubbed of data that a hacker can use.
Scott (760) 969-0974