In the wake of a massive data breach at Equifax, many of our clients are asking how they can help protect their financial information.

Identity Theft: What You Need to Know

The Equifax breach does not necessarily put current financial accounts directly at risk.

However, the information that was stolen could be used to create new accounts in a person’s name, or to gain access to existing accounts, including email and financial accounts. This practice is called “phishing,” and we’ve seen an increase in this kind of email scam in recent years. With this information in the wrong hands, a more sophisticated and easier-to-spot version of phishing called “spear phishing” will almost certainly increase.

See our June 2017 article “How to Protect Yourself against Email Scams” for more information on this practice and how to spot phishing emails.

Be on the Lookout for These Likely Scenarios

  • Phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised.
  • Phishing emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information.
  • Calls from scammers that claim that are from your bank or credit union.
  • Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen.

What You Can Do to Protect Your Information

  • Change passwords immediately for email and financial accounts by directly going to the website. Do NOT change it via a link emailed to you, as this may be a phishing email. 
  • Personal email and financial account passwords should never be the same. 
  • Use a strong password. Consider using a phrase, like “DanLikesCheeseburgersAndFries.” Very easy to remember, long enough to be hard to crack.
  • If possible, incorporate numbers and/or punctuation symbols to further complicate your password.
  • Do not give your password to anyone. Custodians, Wealth Enhancement Group, your email provider, and others should never request it of you. 
  • Be suspicious of every email you receive regarding your accounts or asking for information. Don’t click links in emails; instead, go to the website of the sender and log in directly. Learn to hover over links and see where the really go.
  • Check your credit reports via the free annualcreditreport.com
  • Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.
  • Consider signing up for credit monitoring services and even freezing your credit files. For more information, see this article from the Federal Trade Commission. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for one calendar year. There are other services available for small fees. 

As always, please don't hesitate to reach out to your advisory team if you have any questions.

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Wealth Enhancement Group is a Greater Minneapolis-based independent wealth management firm offering comprehensive and customized financial planning and investment management services. Established in 1997, Wealth Enhancement Group uses a team approach with a focus on simplifying their clients’ financial lives and has offices nationwide.