Hackers Strike – Feeling helpless and out of control? Not, with the caped crusader at your side…
The announcement came down today: Equifax’s CEO is stepping down. According to most reports, I picked up mine at the Wall Street Journal; hackers accessed the personal and financial information of approximately 143 million people. Other management personnel at the firm were also dismissed among them the chief information and security officers.
Most investigators do not believe the information has been used yet to swindle anyone, but how does anyone know? Here’s what to do:
- Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
- Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
- 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.
If you have not already done so, enroll in each of your financial provider’s websites. Most credit card companies offer to text you or email you with the latest credit card purchases. This what I do personally, and I’ve stopped several fraudulent charges from going through, and I have successfully disputed several more. Anecdotally, there is a restaurant in Gainesville that I could count on passing my credit card information to villains – invariable in a month or two my Amex card would have been charged for flights to South America. I do not eat there anymore.
Then there’s the Credit Freeze approach: It restricts access to your credit report – it locks it down. A credit freeze makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. The Federal Trade Commission has concise explanations and guidelines here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs
Alternatively, if you think your information has been compromised a Fraud Alert may be appropriate for you. The way this works is a creditor can only get access to your information by verifying your identity with you: If you provide a telephone number, they must call you.
Three types of fraud alerts are available:
- Initial Fraud Alert. If you’re concerned about identity theft but haven’t yet become a victim, this fraud alert will protect your credit from unverified access for at least 90 days. You may want to place a fraud alert on your file if your wallet, Social Security card, or other personal, financial or account information are lost or stolen.
- Extended Fraud Alert. For victims of identity theft, an extended fraud alert will protect your credit for seven years.
- Active Duty Military Alert. For those in the military who want to protect their credit while deployed, this fraud alert lasts for one year.
You may remember the story of Frank Abagnale Jr. portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in “ Catch Me If You Can”; currently he’s not only a consultant to the FBI on fraud investigations he’s also on AARP’s payroll as a resource to its members. Yes, he did serve the time for his crimes. Here’s his take on an all too familiar fraud: “Anyone who has seen the face of a check you write from your checking account or wealth-management account could draft on that account tomorrow.” I cannot relay it any better than Abagnale so here is the full quote as I found it in the Wall Street Journal:
“Think about this: You go into a convenience store today and write a check for $9. You have to hand the clerk the check with your name and address, phone number, your bank’s name and address, your account number at your bank, the routing number into your account. That’s your wiring instructions. Your signature that’s on the signature card at your bank. And then the clerk has written down your state driver’s license number on the front and your date of birth. You don’t get the check back. You can get an image of the check; the physical check goes to [the store’s] warehouse, where eventually, six months from now, they will destroy it.
In the meantime, anyone who would see the face of that check—from the clerk who took it at the counter to the one that made the night deposit—could draft on your bank account tomorrow, would have all the drafting instructions. Or they could go online [and order checks] that look exactly like your checks, but put their name on it and put your account number on it. So every check they write gets debited against your account. It’s so simple to do.
It’s amazing to me that people are writing $9 checks from their wealth-management account, their private banking account, and giving them to some stranger in a store.”
As your caped crusader, remember no more checks, use only credit cards, start getting notifications from your providers, look into freezing your credit line and have a cocktail every evening…. Live longer, live happier.
Currently, our portfolios overweighted domestic and foreign equities.
Carlos Dominguez – Portfolio Manager, DJWMG
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