What’s so unusual about the Equifax breach is not just the size, but that it included Social Security Numbers (SSN). SSNs have become the core of our identity system by accident. Now, chances are some fraudster has access to most of them.
In the light of this massive breach, we wanted to share our thoughts on how to fight back when you are a victim of identity fraud. We wrote this to be honest and to the point (and maybe a bit opinionated). Our lawyers asked us to mention that this is not legal advice nor financial advice. We are not lawyers and can’t give legal advice, nor are we financial advisors.
1. You don’t have to sign up for a credit monitoring service. They try to sign you up for an expensive subscription service. You are entitled to three free credit reports each year, so use one every four months. Get your reports at annualcreditreport.com and see if any accounts were opened by others in your name. Annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized site to get your free credit reports. All other sites are using your information for marketing purposes.
2. If someone opens a loan or credit card in your name, take a deep breath. We know it is very frustrating and a big waste of time, but you haven’t been stolen from and haven’t lost any money. You will not have to pay debts that are factually not yours.
3. Go to the police and file a report. Take that police report and mail it to the bank’s legal department with a short letter. In the letter state that you did not open the account and ask them to correct it in the timeframe specified by law.
4. You might be inclined to call the bank or credit agency. Don’t do it. Everyone on the other end of the phone is well trained to get you off the phone without helping you. Everything needs to be done in writing. Start by writing a letter to the bank notifying them that you did not open the account and requesting they reply in writing with proof that the account is yours. Include a copy of your police report.
5. You might have to go back and forth a bit with the bank. Always keep it professional. The banks don’t care about your frustration. But they do care about paper trails and regulators. Make sure to keep a paper trail of all correspondence.
You can find more information here.
Thanks to Patrick McKenzie for his excellent blog on the process. We recommend reading his full post.