By Gail MarksJarvis
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Security experts say that in light of the Equifax security breach, it’s just a matter of time before the crimes show up. However, there are things you can do to better protect yourself.
When your Social Security number has been exposed, you’re vulnerable.
When the bad guys know your address, driver’s license number and age along with your Social Security number, the risk is even worse.
Now that a massive data breach at Equifax has compromised that data for nearly half of Americans, essentially giving away the keys to their identities, some individuals and businesses could have money stolen from their accounts, according to security experts.
It’s just a matter of time before the crimes show up.
“This is a new era,” said Neal O’Farrell, executive director of the Identity Theft Council. Because the data stolen from Equifax was so massive and extensive, “now you must assume the bad guys have everything.”
There are steps consumers can take to protect their identities and their financial accounts. Chief among them: reviewing the security measures on the financial accounts you hold.
Here’s one way to know if your accounts are vulnerable: When you access your bank statement, brokerage account, medical records or even when you file your taxes, are you asked to verify your identity by providing your Social Security number or the last four digits of your Social Security number?
“If so, you are extremely vulnerable, because the thieves have the Social Security numbers,” O’Farrell said.
Consumers also need to be more attentive to the layers of authentication and the passwords they use for their online accounts. Although many consumers hate the multistep authentication processes and the hassle of remembering passwords, such practices are now essential, he said.
This means you should expect banks to send messages to your phone and email to confirm your identity each time you want to withdraw or transfer funds, O’Farrell said. At some banks, this is standard procedure, but if it’s optional, you should still take advantage of the service.