By Arjun Kannan, former Climb CTO
As the ever-shifting media spotlight moves away from the Equifax data breach, we want to make sure you’re not kept in the dark about your personal data. Below, we’ve outlined a few clarifying facts about the importance of data security and protecting your information. And more importantly, we included advice on how — when you have to trust a company with your personal info — to ensure that data is secure.
The first step is knowing which pieces of data need to be protected. In the case of the Equifax breach, the records were comprised of personally identifiable information (PII), including:
- Social Security Number (SSN)
All of these compromised factors leave the door open for potential fraud and identity theft. In addition to these data points, you should be thoughtful whenever you’re asked to provide:
- Credit card information
- Birth date
- Bank account information
To keep your identity secure — and promote your financial wellness — it’s important to stay aware of your credit. You can do this in four ways:
Know who has access to your data
We live in a time when our desire for convenience can often override our desire for personal security. (It’s just so easy to pay people from your phone!) A growing number of companies ask for our information to move forward with transactions, and while it’s often necessary and convenient to use these companies, you should be aware of what security measures they’re taking to protect your sensitive data. If you ever have a gut feeling that you should not provide your personal data to a company, don’t be afraid to ask for information about their security measures before you provide data.
Know when something happens to your credit
Next, you will always want to keep an eye on your FICO score. There are a number of credit monitoring sites that you can use, and your bank may even offer free credit monitoring in light of the Equifax breach. When monitoring your credit, pay special attention to:
- Credit inquiry: This is when an outside entity “pulls” your credit score to check your qualifications for new financing. This should only happen if you: applied for a loan (auto, home, student), applied for a new apartment, or applied for a line of credit or payment plan. If you have a new credit inquiry, but you did not apply for new credit in any of the ways above, it is a red flag that someone else may be using your identity.
- Significant score drop: Your credit score can be affected by a number of factors including: how often you are paying your balance on time, how much you’re using your credit, how long you’ve had credit, your number of different types of credit accounts, your number of recent credit inquiries (usually within one year). If your score drops, you should take a look at which of these 5 factors made it drop, and ensure that the information is accurate. While it’s okay for your score to fluctuate slightly, it is important to note what factors make it drop, so you can adjust your credit usage and ensure that no one else is taking action on your credit.
If you’re looking for a way to monitor your credit, here is a list of resources to get you started.
Know how to report any issues that you see
In regards to the Equifax breach, they have put up a website for applicants to check if they’ve been breached. They’re also offering a year of free credit monitoring to all US citizens, so you can keep an eye on your situation.
If you see something suspicious on your credit report, we recommend doing the following:
- Setting a freeze on credit records at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- Putting out a fraud alert on file for the next 90 days at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- File a dispute on your credit report
For further details, the folks over at The New York Times have put together an even more comprehensive list of steps here.
Know how to hold companies accountable
Finally, don’t hesitate to ask companies what they are doing to protect your data.
As a financial company in the digital age, it is our responsibility to keep your information safe. At Climb, we take this role very seriously. Here are a few examples:
- We keep your data strongly encrypted, so it’s unreadable except to the people you’ve authorized to read it.
- We don’t store passwords — this ensures that your information can’t be accessed by someone who can guess your password.
- We make security a part of the culture. Keeping your data secure is an ongoing process, and we have processes every step of the way to make sure we’re continuously improving the security of the data that you trust us with.