During the week of September 4th, 2017, Equifax (one of the three common credit bureaus that report consumer credit) was breached, subjecting, reportedly, 143 million peoples’ personal information. We are suggesting our customers take the following precautions with their credit profiles.
According to the company’s press release
“(t)he information accessed primarily includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers.”
Unfortunately, hackers possessing this type of information could apply for fraudulent loans, credit cards, lines of credit, etc. If the fraudster has this type of information, financial institutions that take online, mobile, or web-based loan applications, or don’t have long-term relationships with their customers cannot easily distinguish you from someone pretending to be you.
If an unknown credit application is submitted, you could be at risk of the lowering of your credit score, as well as companies seeking collection of debts that were opened with your information. We cannot stress enough the importance of working with institutions that know you. Credit decisions at FNB Osakis do include consideration of your credit score, but it is just one piece of the application. With a long-term relationship that includes your main deposit account, we are able to underwrite your credit based on your true cash flow and credit performance with FNB Osakis and place you in the best lending product for your needs.
What Should Our Customers Do?
We are strongly recommending our customers to do the following (and please, if you have concerns contact FNB Osakis, and we will do our best to help you):
1. Visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, an online service Equifax has set up, to check if personal information has been compromised.
2. A number of experts also advise consumers to place a credit freeze on their credit reports, if they believe they are at risk of identity theft. Based on Equifax’s disclosure, it’s reasonable to assume that the risk is high.
Should you choose to freeze your credit, do know that if you are in the process of selling/buying a home, a new car, or opening up new credit accounts, this will make those processes more involved and you will have to communicate with your lenders the reason you chose to freeze your credit.
To learn more about the credit freeze process, follow these links from the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission. Minnesota state law requires a $5 fee for each credit freeze. Consumers may contact the credit reporting agencies as follows:
Experian Security Freeze
Equifax Security Freeze
TransUnion Security Freeze
3. Monitor accounts closely and frequently. By viewing accounts online and checking throughout the month, customers will be able to identify possible problems sooner.
4. Review credit reports every three or four months. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year. They can request a single report from one of the bureaus every three or four months. By staggering these requests, consumers will be able to monitor credit throughout the year. [See our blog post on Credit Scores]