ID Theft and Consumer Reports

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a 2017 data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.

In January, the FTC released Updated information about the Equifax Data Breach Settlement.  The site links to a lookup tool to tell you if your information was exposed, for example, “Based on the information you provided, our records indicate your personal information was impacted by this incident.”  There are also instructions for filing a claim.

Once your information is out there, it’s out there for good.  Historically, following a data breach a consumer may not see a problem for several years, and during this time our sensitive personal information may have been sold and bought many times.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently published a 36-page List of Consumer Reporting Companies that produce special reports for such as lenders, employers, landlords, and utility companies.

In any report there can be errors [1], which is reason enough by itself to check credit reports regularly.  I would also examine such as credit card statements and utility bills line by line, and be alert for “because they can” fees which have been known to pop up. [2]

If you believe that your information has been compromised from this or another breach, it’s even more reason to review your credit reports regularly, at least from the Big Three.

If you’re planning to apply to a new job, rent an apartment, purchase auto insurance through a new company, or open an account with a new bank or credit union, it may benefit you to check certain other reports, too.

Additional Sources of Information

Identity Theft Resource Center

Krebs on Security

Forbes contributor Tom Groenfeldt wrote, “Fraudsters have shifted their focus to account takeover and new account fraud — using accounts in someone else’s name to buy goods, take out loans or even take out a mortgage.

The Javelin Strategy & Research 2020 Identity Fraud Study provides some insights about fraud and what we can do about it. including what to watch for on our credit reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.

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[1] Read about Ohio resident Judy Thomas.  But to check your reports DO USE <https://www.annualcreditreport.com> rather than the one suggested in the article.  Also, the CBS 60 Minutes video seems to have been removed, but there’s a transcript here.

[2] For credit report errors and because they can fees I have personal examples.  Yes, this happens, and it’s not rare!

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