Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

Ben Jennings | Lead Advisor

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Well, once again, last month we learned about another breach of security that resulted in the loss of personal data for you and 100 million of your friends.

This time, there was a local connection as a Seattle woman was arrested for the crime against Capital One. Now, I know the title above is not really about credit breaches—rather, Shakespeare has King Henry encourage his army with these words, urging them to try again as they fight. I’m going to use the phrase in that sense, and urge you to again fight to secure your personal information.

I think at this point the only prudent perspective is to assume that all our personal data is readily available to the nefarious characters lurking about the Dark Web’s shady neighborhoods. The question for us is, what will we do to make it hard for them to use our data? Here are three steps:

  1. Freeze your credit reports! This is probably the single best step you can take to prevent fraudulent accounts being opened in your name using the aforementioned hacked data which you should assume everyone knows. See our previous discussion of this here.

  2. Use strong (long, complex) and unique (used only once) passwords for your online credentials. The only practical way to do this is to use a password manager. A free one which our operations team would be happy to help you learn to use is LastPass. Call Julie Gibson in our office at (206) 682-7713 to schedule assistance with this.

    … The last is a step you may find counterintuitive:

  3. Be sure you have online accounts set up for important vendors and financial institutions. You may think your information isn’t available online until you do this—but unless you are doing business only with the guy down at the village square recording transactions on clay tablets, you are just fooling yourself. Friends, get rid of your psychological tin-foil hat—your information is already online, and if you don’t already have a secure account established, you’re only making it easier for a hacker to set one up in your name.

Finally, here’s an update on a previous breach: the Equifax credit bureau hack in 2017. Equifax has reached a settlement to offer the 147 million victims up to $125 or free credit monitoring services. Unfortunately, the “up to” is because there is a capped pool of available funds which will be allocated pro rata among those seeking cash, and the Federal Trade Commission says an “overwhelming response” means folks taking the money will receive “nowhere near” the $125 they might have received if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed. There are also still several months to file a claim, so we won’t know the actual payout till early 2020. At this point, however, we can already tell that free credit monitoring services will be far more valuable than the cash. File a claim using this link.