Fake websites and fraud alerts: The latest on Equifax.

Posted on Sep 29, 2017


(photo from NBCNews.com)

 

Another update on the Equifax Data Breach.  Important highlights: 

 

  • Be careful where you navigate on the internet to get information on the breach. 

  • There was a potential issue when someone created a fake website – “securityequifax2017.com” as opposed the actual site that Equifax set up for information on the breach – “equifaxsecurity2017.com.” This easily could have been a malicious scammer trying to obtain consumers’ information; however, luckily it was a software engineer who created the site to show how easy it is to impersonate Equifax’s response website. Notably, as of September 25th, there have been over 1000 fake websites launched.

  • To compound the issue, Equifax actually posted links to this fake site instead of their own on via Twitter on September 20th.  Yet another embarrassing bungling by the company that caused the massive issue. 

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  • Active Monitoring, Credit Fraud Alert, or Credit Freeze? 

  • What action should you take if you are a victim of the Equifax Data Breach?  There are essentially three courses of action: 

  • Active Monitoring – You can take advantage of the free Equifax monitoring, as well as getting your free annual credit report, and signing up for www.creditkarma.com and www.creditsesame.com.  This will allow you to keep tabs on your existing accounts, as well as anything that occurs involving your credit. 

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  • Credit Fraud Alert – Placing a credit fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies (“CRAs”) requires a creditor obtaining your credit report or score to take steps to verify your identity first, such as calling you.  This applies to not only applications for new credit, but also to requests for an additional credit card or increasing your credit limits.  It is free and if you request it from one of the CRAs, they must communicate it to the other two.  There are three types: 

  • - Initial Fraud Alert – works for 90 days and is renewable 

  • - Extended Fraud Alert – works for seven years, but requires you to first file an identity theft report 

  • This also removes you from marketing lists for prescreened credit offers for five years unless you ask them to put your name back on the list. 

  • - Active Duty Military Alert – applies to military members and lasts for one year 

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  • Credit Freeze – This is the strongest step you can take.  It prevents creditors from accessing your credit reporting file or your credit score.  It must be applied separately to each CRA and they charge for it ($5-$10, though Equifax is stating it is waiving its fees until November 21).  Important info: 

  • Creditors that rely on a credit report or score in granting credit will likely refuse to offer the same service because of the lack of information. 

  • It only protects against new accounts being opened, as it does not apply to actions on existing accounts, so you must still regularly review your credit reports. 

  • If you freeze your credit, you must undo the freeze (“thawing”) to allow anyone to access your credit or obtain your score when you need it to occur (applying for a mortgage, car loanan apartment, job, for insurance, etc.).  You are charged for that lifting (again $5-$10). 

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  • So which course of action do you take? It is a judgment call for each person based on their circumstances and needs.  For instance, if you need to access your credit regularly, the credit freeze will be time-consuming and expensive.  The credit fraud is a free easier step, but is initially only good for 90 days and must be renewed every 90 days unless you take the additional steps necessary for the extended fraud alert.  It could be a good middle-of-the-road step.  If you regularly monitor your accounts, you may want to just keep tabs on things.   

 

Stay vigilant by regularly checking your credit reports.  If you have any questions on the information provided, or discover any incorrect information or fraudulent activity on your credit reports, contact us. 

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC