Where Do You Stand?
A little over a year ago, roughly 148 million Equifax customers had their data stolen: names, home addresses, Social Security and credit card numbers, birthdays, phone numbers, email addresses, and driver’s license numbers, thanks to a breach that could have been prevented by simple software and system updates.
Experts say neither the government nor the credit reporting industry has done much to change their practices. Have you? What steps are you taking to protect your PII (personally identifiable information)? How would you rate your cyber health compared to a year ago?
At Ameris Bank, we want to arm you with information to help you stay in good cyber security health:
Freeze your credit with each of the four bureaus.
This blocks any organization from accessing your credit report. It’s a free service, and it stays in place until you “thaw” it. You don’t leave your house unlocked while you’re gone; why would you allow unfettered access to your most sensitive data? You will need to thaw your credit when you’re applying for any kind of loan, but it should only take about one business day if you make an online or phone request or approximately three days if by mail. There may be a small fee for requesting a freeze, but since it provides you with security, it’s probably well worth the investment.
Review your credit report carefully.
You are entitled to receive one free copy per year from each bureau, but since thieves may not act on your stolen information right away, it may be worth paying the nominal fee (roughly $10) to request copies regularly. Be sure to report any signs of theft or fraud to the police and all reporting bureaus immediately.
Sign up for credit monitoring.
This will alert you to any suspicious activity. You can sign up for paid services, but CreditKarma offers free monitoring of Equifax and TransUnion. Consider opening an Ameris Bank Amenity Checking account so that you can take advantage of a checking account that also includes ID protection and restoration services.
Should you find yourself a victim of identity theft, act immediately.
Follow the Federal Trade Commission’s roadmap for the important steps you need to take. Another helpful resource is the Identify Theft Resource Center, a non-profit organization established to support victims of identity theft. They have a free Identity Theft app that allows you to track your case and access other helpful resources.
Educate yourself about how the credit reporting agencies work and what they do with your information. You might be surprised by how much access and control they have over your information with very little regulation or oversight. Consumer Reports is a great resource.
How did you fare? If you’ve only taken one or two of these measures, you’re not alone. A USA Today survey found that one year after the Equifax breach, only 8% of Americans have frozen their credit. Let’s get engaged about protecting our PII. In fact, why not put a reminder in your phone to run through this checklist every six months? See if you can improve your cyber hygiene score.
Just as you should with your physical well-being, you need to advocate for your own cyber health rather than solely relying on others to protect you. Be sure to check out our cybersecurity resources and follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for tips to help you achieve better cyber hygiene.
Written by: Sarah Nicholas
Sarah is the Director of Communications for Serendipity Communications. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan with her husband, daughters and stepson, with twin stepdaughters nearby. She is passionate about cyber safety education for children and enjoys ballet dancing, reading and volunteering at her children’s school.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Ameris Bank is not affiliated with nor endorses any of the companies featured in this article.