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North Shore Bank of Commerce

Data Breaches - How Can I Protect Myself & My Financial Assets?

Rick Haney - Vice President, Enterprise Risk Management Officer
The news continues to report on large data breaches which have occurred at different businesses and government entities. The Equifax loss of personal confidential information affected more than 145 million Americans’ information. So if you have taken out any type of loan or make payments on a credit card or other loan, your personal information was most likely stolen!

Here Are Steps You Can Take to Help Minimize Potential Use of Your Confidential Information:

Freeze Your Credit
  • This is the most conservative and restrictive way to limit the use of your name and confidential information which could be used to take out new loans, credit cards and other credit.
  • Positives:
    • Lenders primarily pull credit reports to assess an applicant’s credit worthiness before granting credit. A Freeze prevents the pulling of your credit report.
    • You would need to authorize the credit reporting agency (CRA) to remove or temporarily lift the freeze before the CRA could provide the credit report.
    • Only the person who places the freeze can remove or lift the freeze.
  • Negatives:
    • Can be costly, although the time and cost to repair your good name will be more expensive. Costs about $15 to place each Freeze. You must place a Freeze with each of the three CRA’s, and you must pay a fee around $5 to each CRA to lift or remove a Freeze.
    • If you plan to take out new credit, the unfreezing process can be a bit tedious and may lengthen the loan process.

Place a Fraud Alert of Your Credit
  • If your confidential information has been or may have been compromised, you can place a Fraud Alert with the CRA’s. Fraud Alerts are for either 90-days or 7-years. However, you must have experienced identity theft and have filed a police report to be able to place a 7-year Fraud Alert.
  • Positives:
    • No cost to place a Fraud Alert.
    • You only need to place the alert with one CRA. That CRA will forward it to the other two reporting agencies.
    • Creditors are required to follow up on Fraud Alerts on credit reports to confirm that the person applying is the person whose confidential information is being used to obtain the loan.
    • You should receive notification from the CRA’s anytime someone pulls your credit report. This gives you the opportunity to prevent credit being opened in your name by someone else or to confirm it is you.
  • Negatives:
    • Unless you have experienced a loss and filed a police report, you cannot file a 7-year Fraud Alert, so you must monitor and replace the 90-day Fraud Alerts.
    • The alert may not prevent the opening of credit in your name if you do not respond in time.
    • A creditor does not correctly confirm that the person requesting the credit is you.
Sign Up For Credit Monitoring Service
  • You can sign up for a credit monitoring service through any of the CRA’s or through other companies such as Lifelock. Equifax is offering the service free for one year, and reportedly the other two CRA’s, Experian and Transunion, are doing the same.
  • These services contact you by the communication method you select when establishing the service. You will be notified when someone pulls your credit report or attempts to use your confidential information.
  • Positives:
    • You will be able to confirm whether you conducted the activity which triggered the alert notification to you.
    • Service may cover some activities in addition to pulling credit reports, such as use of your SSN.
    • These services usually have insurance coverage to help pay for the costs to clear your name and other identity theft costs.
  • Negatives:
    • You do not respond in time to stop the activity which has prompted the use of your confidential information.
    • Not all types of identity theft activity will trigger a notification.
    • There is a monthly cost for the service.
Monitor Your Credit Report
  • You have the ability to pull your credit report with each of the three CRA’s annually. This means you can pull one every four months, rotating through the three CRA’s to ensure the information with the CRA’s is accurate.
  • You can pull credit reports in three ways: on the internet, by phone or by mail.
    • Internet:
    • Toll Free Phone Number: 1-877-322-8228
    • Mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281