Equifax breach victims may have to take more steps to protect their identities

Inside Subprime: September 25, 2017

By Caroline Thompson

After a massive Equifax data breach left the sensitive information of 143 million Americans at risk, advice for victims poured out from nearly every financial expert in the country. Most of the advice was the same: monitor your accounts and freeze your credit reports from all three major reporting bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. But as the dust from the security disaster clears, victims of the hack are finding these efforts may not be enough.

According to Consumer Reports, freezing your credit won’t totally stop identity thieves from using your data in nefarious ways. While a freeze on your credit reports will indeed prevent fraudsters from opening credit accounts in your name, or using your social security number to register for benefits on government websites, the data breach leaked more than just SSIs. Among the once private data now floating around the dark web are millions of driver’s license numbers, addresses and birth dates, which crooks can use to their advantage.

If your data was leaked in the Equifax hack, you’re going to need to take a few more steps in order to fully protect yourself against identity theft. Here’s what Consumer Reports recommends:

1. Register for a PIN with the IRS

A fraudster can use your social security number, birthdate and license number to fill out a false tax return in your name, take out hundreds of fake deductions, and funnel the fake return right into their own bank account. In order to prevent this from happening, you can file for an IRS Identity Protection PIN, which will add an extra barrier to your tax filings every year. The catch? You can only get a PIN if your information has been stolen in the past, or if you live in place where tax-related identity theft is common – think Washington, D.C., Florida and Georgia.

However, the IRS may bend the rules this year for Equifax hack victims, though they have yet to confirm this. Consumer Reports recommends every taxpayer who fell victim to the Equifax hack request a PIN from the IRS regardless of whether or not they technically qualify.

Andrew Mattson, a tax partner at the Moss Adams tax firm in Silicon Valley, said you can do so by filing a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. “Even if the IRS says no, your account will generally be flagged for additional monitoring for suspicious activity,” he said.

You should also take time every so often to check out your IRS account information, which, according to Mattson “shows when returns were filed and which refund payments were made.” If you see anything on there that doesn’t look like you, that’s a sure-fire sign of fraud. Contact your local IRS office immediately.

2. Keep a close eye on your medical records. 

Healthcare is expensive, and identity thieves without out access to an affordable plan might use yours to go see a doctor and help pay for prescription drugs. According to Consumer Reports:

“Get copies of your medical records from providers to establish the baseline of your health before your records are compromised. Increasingly, online patient portals make this easy to do. Check back regularly to see whether providers you didn’t use are listed and whether you’ve been charged for treatments you never received.

In addition, review your free annual MIB Consumer File, which contains medical and personal information about you reported by health, life, disability, and other member insurers. Do the same for your Milliman Intelliscript report, which tracks your history of prescription drug purchases.”

3. Double check your driving record. 

With access to your driver’s license number, someone with the know-how could easily create a fake license and pin all their moving violations to your record. In order to stop this from happening, ask your local DMV to give you a copy of your driving record, which usually can be obtained for around $10 a pop.

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