Here are five steps to protect your identity after the Equifax Breach

Tim Watters |
Many people were stunned to learn of the Equifax Data Breach. Over 145 million people were affected by the breach. Here are a few things you can do to protect yourself:
The first way to protect your identity is to place a security freeze on your credit files at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnionFor additional security, you can also apply a freeze on your credit files at a fourth, lesser-known consumer reporting agency, Innovis. You can do this by contacting each bureau either through their website or through the customer service phone number. Depending on where you live, there may be a small fee for placing the freeze. Equifax, however, said it would not charge for credit freezes for those affected by the data breach.
The second way to protect your identity is to activate two-factor authentication. In today's world of digital crime, two-factor authentication is an important extra layer of safety. It requires not just a password but a second element, such as a code texted to your smart phone, which you have but a fraudster can't easily access. Set up and activate two-factor authentication on all of your existing mobile banking, savings, credit card, home equity line of credit, and other online accounts that offer it.
The third way to protect your identity is to maximize your mutual fund security. Although the Securities and Exchange Commission requires mutual funds companies to identify, detect, and respond to red flags of identity theft, unlike FDIC-insured banks, these investment firms aren’t required to restore assets stolen by hackers.
You should also consider calling your 401(k) plan provider and other investment managers to learn their fraud protection policies, as they can vary from company to company. If your investment company doesn't explicitly reimburse stolen funds, consider moving your money elsewhere. Many small mutual fund companies don’t explicitly reimburse stolen funds.
TD Ameritrade Institutional, has an asset protection guarantee that promise to reimburse assets stolen in unauthorized online transactions. TD Ameritrade Institutional is the custodian for Watters Financial Services, LLC.  A custodian is a financial institution that holds customers' securities for safekeeping to minimize the risk of their theft or loss.
To get protection, TD Ameritrade Institutional and Watters Financial Services, LLC request that you follow certain safeguards, which you should be doing anyway, including regularly reviewing your account statements and promptly reporting any errors or suspected fraud; keeping up-to-date security on any computer or other device you use to access your account (firewall, antispyware, and antivirus software); not responding to, clicking a link in, or opening an attachment in an e-mail that you suspect might be fraudulent and that requests personal financial information; and using two-factor authentication.
The fourth way to protect your identity from the Equifax data breach is to place a fraud alert on credit reports. A fraud alert is different from a credit freeze. The fraud alert is a notice on your credit report that warns both current and prospective lenders that they must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before granting credit, such as a new credit card or loan, or extending credit on an existing account. An alert lasts 90 days. If you’re an ID-theft victim, you can get a fraud alert that stays in place for seven years. But you may be better off with the 90-day alert, because that allows you to get a free credit report from each of the four credit bureaus each time you renew the alert, which means you can get up to 16 free reports per year.
The fifth way to protect your identity from the Equifax data breach is to secure your smartphone and email. How you manage your smartphone and email accounts can be critical to your online security. Your phone is where all your second-factor text message codes are sent and where your mobile banking and other money apps live. Email is where your financial institutions send alerts and password reset links.
Here's how you can make your phone and email safer:
Activate two-factor authentication on your email account.
Use a password management app such as LastPass on your computer's browser and on your phone. LastPass creates and plugs different passwords into each of your accounts when you log in, so you don't have to invent and keep track of dozens of passwords. This eliminates the temptation of using the same password for multiple accounts, which can provide a master key for hackers. Never click unsolicited, unexpected, or suspicious-looking links sent to you by email or text. They could download malware capable of spying on your phone or personal computer activity.
By following these steps, you will be in a better position to protect your identity.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to call us at 201-843-0044 or check out our website at: