Data breaches have been sizzling all over the news lately, with the most recent being a large data breach at a financial institution involving at least 100 million consumers, 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers. According to CNBC, the largest category of jeopardized data was information on consumers and small businesses as of the time they applied for credit card products from 2005 through early 2019. The hacker also gained access to credit card data including credit scores, limits, balances and payment history as well as fragments of transactions data from a total of 23 days during 2016, 2017 and 2018. The FBI arrested the individual who was responsible for the breach and charged them with computer fraud and abuse, according to court records.
Although an arrest stops additional hacking by this individual, your personal information may be out there. Here are a few tips from our BSA Officer Richard Aziz on ways to protect your identity (and credit) this summer.
FREE Credit Freezes
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Security freezes (also known as credit freezes) restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. It does not impact your credit score and can be easily removed as needed. Since September 21, 2018, you can freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person, too.
What can I do?
Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.
Step One: Add the mobile device applications for each of the three credit bureaus (see bureau information below) to your personal mobile device.
Step Two: Complete the registration process for each credit bureau credit freeze request and maintain a careful record of each user ID, password and PIN. Each credit bureau will have a unique login, password and PIN to be tracked.
Step Three: Login to each mobile application using your new credentials. Mobile apps will prove useful when you want to freeze or unfreeze your credit profile, as security warnings are often pushed to each app, making them essential tools in monitoring your credit application activity.
Step Four: Activate a credit freeze for each credit bureau by following the instructions provided by each organization. Most often this is simply a “freeze my credit” button available within the mobile app.
- Experian utilizes a mobile application called “Experian IdentityWorks.”
- TransUnion utilizes a mobile application called “myTransUnion Credit Freeze.”
- Equifax utilizes a mobile application called “Lock & Alert Equifax.”
Can I Temporarily Remove the Freeze?
YES! You can unfreeze your credit when you need to and at no cost with the above mentioned bureaus. Keep in mind that anyone attempting to run a credit check on you during a freeze would not be able to complete the inquiry. In some cases, Pentucket Bank may run a credit check depending on the product or service you are requesting, so it is important to remove the freeze beforehand.