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Equifax, et all; “The Wild, Wild West”
And Why You Should Be Playing Defense

Computer hacking reached a new high in 2017! The “granddaddy hack” this year was the credit bureau Equifax in September. The company announced that 143 million U.S. consumers had their names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers stolen by the hackers.

Let’s frame this impact for the total US population. Consider the following:

2016 US Population:                                                                                                    323 Million
2016 US Citizens with Credit Cards:                                                                           174 Million
US Consumers whose Data was Compromised via Equifax:                                     143 Million
US Citizens contacting Equifax to see if their information was stolen (as of 11/9):     30 Million

Roughly, this means:

  • 82% of the US population with credit was impacted by Equifax hack.
  • Only 20% of the people impacted may have taken steps to protect themselves from the hack.

Very simply, not enough of us are playing defense to protect ourselves against the hackers and we are on our own to do so. It brings forth an image of the Wild, Wild West where the early western settlers of this country had to protect themselves from marauders in towns with no sheriffs. This time instead of guns and arrows the weapons are loans and credit cards established in your name by fraudsters.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus; Equifax, Experian, & Transunion
  • Request texts to your cell phone on all credit card accounts and bank accounts for all transactions. This way you can monitor your accounts instead of paying for LifeLock or whatever the credit bureaus want to sell you as you visit their web sites
  • 2017 Tax Returns – Continue to use your IRS pin number to file your taxes and file early. If you do not have a PIN number, see the following link for help; Check to see if your state has this same procedure for state income tax returns. In Maryland, the PIN you used to file your federal return electronically can be the same PIN you use to electronically file your Maryland return.
  • Social Security- establish an online account with them. If the hackers complete this before you do, you cannot lock them out. If you have delayed claiming, they can impersonate you online, change the address, and have checks sent to them. Remember, the Equifax hack gave them everything they need to create an online account with Social Security.
  • Consider a password manager for all your login web sites. I am currently testing LastPass, one of the more favored password managers.

It’s the Wild, Wild West out there! Protect yourself!!

Looking for assistance? My contact information is listed below.

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Peter B. Smith is a Family Wealth Advisor at the Planning Solutions Group in Fulton, MD ( and is an Annapolis resident. He can be reached at 301-543-6008 or by email at