Article provided by Brian Frederick, September 14, 2017

The recent Equifax data breach has most Americans thinking about the security of their personal information – well, maybe not the residents of Houston and Florida, but most of us.

Mainspring Wealth Advisors has always viewed the security of our clients’ personal and financial information as very serious business, and we help protect our clients by having some additional layers of security. Being financial planners and being aware of upcoming cash needs helps us identify things that may not be part of the norm. Verbally verifying cash withdrawal requests is another safeguard we have in place. Raymond James has also been a good partner in planning for ways to address service disruptions. They have greatly expanded their resources tasked to maintain system and client integrity. 

But how does the Equifax data breach impact you? Some recent information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can help you navigate your way through the maze.

The FTC reports that, if you have a credit report, there’s a very good possibility that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was compromised. According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and – in some instances – driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada, too.

There are steps you can take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com:

Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.

  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.

Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. (If you place a freeze, you’ll have to lift it before you apply for a new credit card or cell phone – or any service that requires a credit check.) If you decide not to place a credit freeze. At least consider placing a fraud alert. (You can visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs#difference for an explanation of the differences between a credit freeze and a fraud alert.)
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  • File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
    • Don’t believe anyone who calls and says you’ll be arrested unless you pay for taxes or debt – even if they have all or part of your Social Security number, or they say they’re from the IRS.

You can also visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.

Equifax plans to notify people whose credit card information was exposed. If you receive a notice…

  • Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one.
  • Review your transactions regularly. Make sure no one misused your card.
  • If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed.
  • If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number.
  • Check your credit report at com

Going forward, it’s important to monitor your credit card and bank accounts closely. If you find charges you don’t recognize, go to IdentityTheft.gov to report it.

All of that information aside, there are some Equifax hack rumors that have been fact-checked by CNN.com. You can get information about those at http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/11/pf/equifaxmyths/.

Overall, we want to provide our clients and their families the peace of mind that their trust in Mainspring Wealth Advisors is well founded. Every day we will continue to strive to improve and earn your business for life. 

If you are concerned or confused, please contact your financial advisor to discuss your specific situation and determine what steps are appropriate for you.

Brian Frederick