Equifax hacked. Now what?

Equifax — one of the companies that warehouses all of your credit information — was hacked, and if you’re like me and 143 million others, your personal data was stolen. You can check at link removedUpdate: It has been reported that Equifax is providing random answers on this checking tool, and is using it as a means to add clients to their proprietary ID theft monitoring solution — free for one year, but then a paid subscription. I think you can skip checking using this tool and safely assume your information is compromised — if not by this particular breach, then others!

Get used to it. Between Anthem, Target, Equifax, and others, it’s highly unlikely that your personal information has been secure for quite a few years. I know full well that my social security number is available for sale somewhere in a dark corner of the web.

The media will be reporting on this in detail for the next couple of days, and we’ll all briefly worry about identity theft. So let’s take care of a few things while it’s on our mind.

1.  Pay for a serious identity-theft monitoring service.

Equifax will be offering you 1-year of free service, but I think it would be wise to avoid using the services of a company that failed to properly secure your data. Zander Insurance, LifeLock, and AllClear ID Pro have hit my desk as options recently (I can’t specifically endorse any particular one, so review a few of them).

Through these services, I receive notices any time there is activity on the credit file of any member of my household, allowing me to take immediate action if it’s fraudulent, as well as monitoring of my other critical data. There are a lot more advertised benefits and I honestly don’t know how well these additional features work, but I’m sure it’s better than nothing.

2.  Always monitor your finances!

We urge all clients to use some kind of daily transaction monitor to know when money is moving out of your accounts.

I get notices directly on my phone of all my account balances, large withdrawal alerts, and daily transactions from our Precedent AM Financial Planning portal. I always know within 24 hours if someone fraudulently accesses my accounts — and it happens on my credit card a couple times every year!

Contact our office to get this setup.

3.  Change all of your passwords using a password manager.

Every site needs to have a different secure password — all of which you can’t possibly remember. Using a password manager both creates secure passwords and remembers them for you.

For example, a common password I might use is my wife’s name, “Rebecca”. This password can be cracked instantly, and if I’ve used it for multiple sites the hacker is going to have a good time with my identity. Alternatively, “&x83JoQgBlhl”, which I generated using my password manager LastPass, would take a computer 34,000 years to crack.

Yes, I’m trusting my security to the password manager. But I’m certain that is better than simple and redundant passwords managed by me.

There are other steps you should take to secure your identity, which I’ve written about in detail. But simply staying actively engaged with your finances by monitoring activity and using secure passwords will be a big help as you build and preserve wealth.