Equifax: How to Protect Yourself

Sep 15, 2017   //   by Bruce Mason   //   Weekly Market Update  //  No Comments

Compared to recent weeks, this week was fairly quiet with little in the way of market-moving news.  President Trump crossed party lines to meet with leaders of the Democratic party in a show of goodwill, however, it is too soon to say if progress was made.  North Korea launched another missile over Japan, but this time the war of words was absent as if accepting Kim Jong Un’s belligerence as ineffectual.  And while Irma destroyed homes and property across Florida, the spirit of Americans coming together and persevering in the face of disaster was once again demonstrated for the world to see.  At the end of the day, it was a good week for the markets and the American people.

Among the biggest stories of the week was our national debt topping $20 trillion for the first time in the history of the nation.  While I said above that the week was good, this bit of news was perhaps a little sobering.  It was also the first time the U.S. debt exceeded Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which was estimated to be roughly $19.23 trillion in the second quarter of 2017.  This equates to $61,895 for every man, woman, and child or $167,299 per taxpayer.  It is important to remember this as both parties wrestle with tax reform in the coming weeks.  While it is unlikely Republicans will get the desired 15% corporate tax rate, it is also unlikely that the tax cuts will be deficit neutral.  If you are interested in just how the national debt breaks down, you can find information at the following link – US Debt Clock.

In other less pressing news, Apple had its annual iPhone event in Cupertino and revealed three new phones.  I won’t go into the details other than to say smartphone innovation is slowing.  While the features of the phones are tweaked, i.e. screen size and technology, their actual usefulness seems to have peaked.  What hasn’t peaked are the prices.  The latest iPhone X pushed through the $1,000 price point and set a new standard for what a high-end phone costs.  I question whether the latest innovation is worth the price and I wonder if there are others who feel the same.  When a phone, albeit a good phone, pushes up against the price of a laptop, one should wonder if the market is a little out of whack (to use a technical term).

Also out of whack is Equifax’s wholly unacceptable response to the data breach that exposed millions of people to identity theft.  As we learn more about what happened, it seems management was asleep at the wheel.  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 leaked.  These are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

  • Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
  • Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit www.IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.  Equifax is offering a free credit freeze while TransUnion and Experian charge $5-10.

Better safe than sorry.  Have a great weekend!

September 15, 2017

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