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Another Day, Another Data Breach – A Simple Guide to a Credit Freeze

On Monday, Capital One announced that they had a data breach and approximately 100 million accounts were affected. Luckily I have a Credit Freeze in place, so even if my data was compromised, the perpetrator can’t do anything with my information.

Logging into my own personal Capital One account, I was greeted with this message:

Date: July 29, 2019

Capital One Financial Corporation (NYSE: COF) announced today that on July 19, 2019, it determined there was unauthorized access by an outside individual who obtained certain types of personal information relating to people who had applied for its credit card products and to Capital One credit card customers.

Capital One immediately fixed the configuration vulnerability that this individual exploited and promptly began working with federal law enforcement. The FBI has arrested the person responsible. Based on our analysis to date, we believe it is unlikely that the information was used for fraud or disseminated by this individual. However, we will continue to investigate.

“While I am grateful that the perpetrator has been caught, I am deeply sorry for what has happened,” said Richard D. Fairbank, Chairman and CEO. “I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right.”

Based on our analysis to date, this event affected approximately 100 million individuals in the United States and approximately 6 million in Canada.

Importantly, no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were compromised and over 99 percent of Social Security numbers were not compromised.

The largest category of information accessed was information on consumers and small businesses as of the time they applied for one of our credit card products from 2005 through early 2019. This information included personal information Capital One routinely collects at the time it receives credit card applications, including names, addresses, zip codes/postal codes, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and self-reported income.

Beyond the credit card application data, the individual also obtained portions of credit card customer data, including:

  • Customer status data, e.g., credit scores, credit limits, balances, payment history, contact information
  • Fragments of transaction data from a total of 23 days during 2016, 2017 and 2018

No bank account numbers or Social Security numbers were compromised, other than:

  • About 140,000 Social Security numbers of our credit card customers
  • About 80,000 linked bank account numbers of our secured credit card customers

For our Canadian credit card customers, approximately 1 million Social Insurance Numbers were compromised in this incident.

We will notify affected individuals through a variety of channels. We will make free credit monitoring and identity protection available to everyone affected.

Safeguarding applicant and customer information is essential to our mission and our role as a financial institution. We have invested heavily in cybersecurity and will continue to do so. We will incorporate the learnings from this incident to further strengthen our cyber defenses.

The investigation is ongoing and analysis is subject to change.

This is our new reality.

Time and time again, companies we trust with our data show us that they are not capable of keeping it secure. There are just too many variables. Too many things that could go wrong at any number of points along the way.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

It’s actually quite simple. You implement what is called a Credit Freeze. There are three credit reporting agencies in the United States. To be fully protected, the process involves applying the freeze with all three agencies.

Equifax – Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services/

Experian – Experian.com/freeze

TransUnion –Transunion.com/credit-freeze

For each agency, sign up for an account (it’s free!) and then add and apply a Credit Freeze. 

Very Important: Do not lose your information associated with the security freeze. You will likely need it again at a later time. I’ll explain below.

Don’t just stop with yourself. Freezing a child’s credit helps protect them from identity theft, including financial aid fraud.

How does this protect me?

Any time you apply for credit, such as for a credit card or a personal bank loan, a lender will run your credit before they can approve you. Even renting an apartment usually means a credit check. They are checking your trustworthiness.

What a Credit Freeze does is prevent lenders from running a credit check on you.

No credit check, no loan. This protects you because a shady individual with your stolen personal information can not open an account and take out a line of credit in your name.

What happens when I need to apply for a loan?

A Credit Freeze also applies to you. If you need to apply for a credit card, car loan, or apartment lease, you will need to unfreeze your credit. This is why keeping your Credit Freeze information secure is very important. 

The process is simple and works something like this:

  1. You want to apply for credit
  2. Find out which credit reporting agency they will report to. Just ask them.
  3. Remove the freeze with just that agency. You don’t need to unfreeze all three.
  4. You can then remove the freeze permanently or for a given amount of time.
  5. Apply for the credit. It’s that easy!

One last thing

I strongly suggest everyone check their credit reports on a regular basis. Once a month will do. It takes no more than a minute and it’s free.

Many bank accounts and credit card companies provide this for free. Otherwise sign up for a free account with Creditkarma.com

If something suspicious appears on your credit, this will allow you to catch it quickly.

Additional Information:

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION Consumer Information

Credit Freeze FAQs: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs

To your financial health!

-Derek

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Credit Freeze

Finance Coach, Foodie, Writer and Traveler. When he is not working, he travels(top of the list is Europe) in search of amazing history and to gorge himself on bread products.

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