Boise resident Camile Mick would really like to reach Equifax.
Like others across the country, she encountered problems when she went to sign up for the credit reporting company’s free monitoring and to place credit freezes on accounts belonging to her and her husband. Its website has been overwhelmed by people seeking protection after hackers stole files on more than 143 million people.
Six out of 10 Americans had their personal information stolen. The breach included names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and addresses — the information needed to open a credit account or steal from one.
Mick said she has been able to reach only an Equifax site that charges people for credit monitoring.
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“Really? Their security got breached and they want to charge us to monitor our information? They should be offering unlimited free monitoring to everyone impacted,” Mick said.
Some Idaho banks and credit unions are giving their customers extra security tools on top of the general advice that has circulated following news of the hack. Idaho Independent Bank, with 11 branches mostly in Southwest Idaho, suggests its customers consider adding an extra passcode. The secret word would be asked for in addition to other security questions bank officials ask when a customer calls in.
“It would be a word that no one else would know. It could be your dog’s name or any other word that would not be publicly available,” said Shannon Stoeger, vice president for branch administration.
Idaho Central Credit Union has 27 branches throughout Idaho. It offers a “card control” phone app that allows customers to turn their debit and credit cards on and off and to place geographic limits on where card transactions are accepted.
“That has been very helpful for people,” said Laura Smith, the credit union’s director of public relations.
What’s at stake? The Idaho Statesman told the story earlier this week of Phil McGrane, chief deputy clerk for Ada County, who had his bank accounts targeted last week after thieves got his name, address, Social Security number, and his wife’s name and date of birth. He was unsure of whether the incident stemmed from the Equifax breach, but the ramifications were the same.
Bank and credit union officials also advise:
▪ Sign up for credit monitoring. D.L. Evans Bank staff is urging its customers to accept Equifax’s offer of a year of free credit monitoring. Mick and many others have reported trouble enrolling; The Washington Post gathered some of their stories here. Initially, it appeared consumers would have to waive their rights to future legal action before Equifax would provide them with monitoring, but after public blowback, the company said that won’t be the case. Other companies will provide the same service for a fee.
▪ Place a freeze or fraud alert on your credit accounts. A freeze prevents your credit report and score from being shared with banks and other credit providers, but you do have to take the time to lift it each time you want to apply for new credit. A less restrictive fraud alert notifies you whenever a new credit account is opened in your name.
A fraud alert filed with one of the main credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, is shared among all three. Credit freezes must be filed separately with each company. A fourth reporting agency, Innovis, requires separate notifications to set up a fraud alert and credit freeze.
▪ Alert your bank to anything you deem suspicious.
▪ File your taxes as soon as you can. A common scam is using someone’s Social Security number to file a fake tax return.
▪ Stay vigilant. Your monitoring unfortunately will have to continue for some years. “The fraudsters will hold on to that information for a while. They’ll wait and then hit you later,” said Amy Evans, vice president of corporate security for D.L. Evans Bank.