To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.
This Equifax security breach has me really concerned. What does it mean if I am among the millions who had their information stolen? What should I do to keep my identity safe?
Looking for the Facts
Dear Looking for the Facts,
You have every right to be concerned!
Equifax is one of three major U.S. credit bureaus. They accumulate data to power organizations and people throughout the world with information to make informed business and personal decisions. But, now we have cause to wonder how well they have stewarded that information.
A fairly unsophisticated attack occurred at one of their U.S.-based web servers. Discovered in July, it was only recently reported to the public. As many as 143 million Americans, half our population, have had their personal data stolen including names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and addresses. In addition, approximately 209,000 included credit card numbers and 182,000 documents over disputed charges contained additional personal information.
Equifax claims there is no evidence of unauthorized access to core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases.
The company says they will send direct mail notices to those individuals whose credit card numbers or dispute data were accessed by the breach. They are offering Free Identity Theft Protection and Credit File Monitoring to all U.S. Consumers for one year through an offering known as Trusted ID Premier. Just know, until recently, the terms and conditions required users to resolve disputes through arbitration, and banned them from participating in class-action lawsuits. So, make sure you read the fine print!
See www.equifaxsecurity2017.com for more information.
Social Security numbers and driver's licenses can be sold on the black market for $20 a piece, according to Patrick Tiquet, Director of Security and Architecture at Keeper Security. Multiply that by 143 million and you get a picture of the motivation.
These are interesting times! We can identify with Paul's 2nd letter to Timothy 3:1-2:
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money…."
Proverbs 22:3 reminds us to do our part: "The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty
- Mark Testoni, President of SAP National Security Services, says "Consumers should remain calm and be cognizant of their personal credit report and activity…Check for notifications to see if new credit applications have been filed on your behalf, and monitor your account for adverse action. If your details are circulated on the black market, the big risks are fraudulent credit application on your behalf and bad actors trying to find ways to take advantage of your person (data)."
- Check your existing credit accounts for any suspicious activity. Your liability may depend on how fast you spot and report suspicious transactions.
- Check diligently over the coming years. Yes, years! Put a repeating reminder on your calendar.
- Although I cannot endorse any of these companies, it is time to consider a 3rd party service like IDShield or Lifelock or a paid service from another company because they tend to track more sources, spot and alert customers to suspicious activity. They may bundle assistance to help victims handle problems.
- Change your login information on all accounts, especially if you used the same ones on other sites! Be sure it is complex...I mean, really complex!
- Alert yourself to phishing attacks in which thieves pose as the affected company to trick people into giving up personal information. Always, always think twice before clicking. Double check to see who sent it. DO NOT download any attachments or update passwords if requested. Place a phone call instead of clicking!
- The safest thing is to freeze your accounts with Equifax, Experian and TransUnion rather than only trusting monitoring services. This can keep thieves from opening new loans or lines of credit in your name. However, it also prevents you from getting new credit. Should you need a new credit card or want to refinance your mortgage in the future, you simply have to reach out to those companies to temporarily lift the freeze. Fees may be charged each time you adjust a freeze. Unfortunately, you will have to pay each of the three companies depending on the state where you reside.
- Stay informed. It's extremely important to understand your credit score and report so you can identify any issues or inconsistencies. Our friends at Christian Credit Counselors have a comprehensive ebook that will help you understand your credit so you can protect your identity and improve your score. You can download it for free here.
It's possible the thieves may hold the information for twelve months and then begin exploiting the data after consumers relax and the Free ID Theft protection expires at Equifax. It is your responsibility to be on guard to protect yourself and your loved ones.
This is not the first breach of information at Equifax. Earlier this year, their payroll group was hacked. When this recent attack was discovered, Equifax's chief financial officer and two other executives sold shares of the company's stock together worth nearly $1.8 million. That doesn't look so good to me.
This is an opportunity to trust in the Lord and for our light to shine in the darkness. The Lord is on our side; therefore, we need not fear. Rather, we can experience complete peace.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
The Equifax breach has not taken God by surprise. Thieves may steal our ID and cause us loss but they cannot steal our real identity in Christ nor our heavenly treasures. So, we go forward, do our part and rest in His unfailing love.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on Contemporary Christian Music stations around the country, and author of his most recent book, Money Problems, Marriage Solutions. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.