The Equifax Data Breach: Take This One Step Now

As you have probably heard by now, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, was hacked earlier this summer. As a result, nearly half the U.S. population’s personal data, including full names, addresses, dates of birth, and Social Security Numbers, is at risk. This is enough information for the hackers to open up credit cards in your name, apply for loans, and go on spending sprees. You may not find out immediately – especially if the hacker also has your mail forwarded to a different address. Because there is about a 50% chance your information was involved in the breach, now is the time to act.

The most important thing you can do now to protect yourself against someone else using your personal information is to place a credit freeze with each of the three credit reporting agencies. A credit freeze is a tool which prevents credit inquiries and the opening of new lines of credit. Anyone who attempts to open a credit card using your information, for example, will be automatically declined. If you wish to open a new line of credit yourself, or to permit a mortgage lender, for example, to make a credit inquiry on your record, you may temporarily lift the credit freeze either for a period of time or for a certain lender.

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I first wrote about credit freezes in this newsletter back in June, following my own experience with identity theft. Because significantly more of you may be affected by the Equifax breach, I think it worth repeating.

If you put a credit freeze into place with a credit reporting agency, the agency will require you to use a Personal Identification Number (PIN) anytime you want to lift the freeze. To best protect yourself, you should place a credit freeze with each of the three agencies, meaning you will need to keep track of three different PINs. Keep them in a safe place to avoid losing them.

The three credit reporting agencies’ webpages on credit freezes are located here:

Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze

Each agency charges a small fee to place a credit freeze; however, Equifax has recently announced that it will waive this fee in light of the breach.

When you go to place your credit freeze with each agency, this would also be a good time for you to request a copy of your credit report. Review it carefully to ensure that all entries relate to you. If you see something that does not belong on your credit report, contact the credit reporting agency directly to request a correction.

Kit Kat

Ask Kit Kat – Veteran & Service Dogs

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, are service dogs assigned to veterans long after their service has ended?

Kit Kat:  Well, yes, and this is an interesting story. Retired Army Sgt. Toby Yarbrough had served overseas and returned home with post-traumatic stress disorder and seizures after suffering a traumatic brain injury while on active duty. Mr. Yarbrough credits his service dog, Duke, with saving his life. Were it not for Duke, Mr. Yarbrough said he probably would have committed suicide. He has detailed his experiences in a self-published book entitled “The Quiet Healing.” Mr. Yarbrough now lives in Chesapeake, VA. Duke is still with him, and accompanies him to work every day at a payroll company in Newport News, VA. Also, they are accompanied by Sasha, a 3-year old former rescue dog, who has taken over for Duke, because he is aged at 13.5 years old and suffers from arthritis and spinal degeneration.

Mr. Yarbrough, Duke, and Sasha came to the attention of some local part-time filmmakers—Andrew Lauto and Jacob Woodward, who then collaborated with Dave Alegre of Virginia Beach who owns Green Thumb Studios, a multimedia business. They plan to make a short film of about 20 minutes in length about Mr. Yarbrough and his dogs. They also will feature other veterans with service dogs and those who train the dogs. It, too, will be called “The Quiet Healing,” and they hope to have it ready to air around Christmas on YouTube and Vimeo. They are also considering entering it in some film festivals.

This is a wonderful story which may give hope to others! When someone is down, seek help. There is always a solution to every problem. (Victoria Bourne, “Filmmakers to tell story of veteran with PTSD and his service dogs,” The Virginian-Pilot, Sep. 5, 2017, pg. 3)

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