First Bank takes the security of our clients’ financial information very seriously. As you may already know, Equifax, a national consumer credit reporting agency, recently announced a major data breach that affects approximately 143 million Americans.
In their announcement, Equifax stated the following:
• The data breach occurred between May and July 2017.
• The stolen information includes consumers’ personally identifiable information, including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers.
• Approximately 209,000 credit card numbers and dispute documents with personally identifiable information for approximately 182,000 consumers were also stolen.
• There is no evidence of unauthorized access to consumers’ credit reporting databases.
While First Bank was not compromised and our clients’ information was not stolen from our bank, we are providing the information we know about this massive breach as well as the steps you can take to protect your personally identifiable information if you so desire. Following this unprecedented breach, we are also asking our customers to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity in First Bank accounts to us by calling a branch or visiting selecting the ‘contact us’ tab above.
Equifax has established a website that informs consumers if they may be affected by the breach, provides additional information on the breach, and offers complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring. This information is available at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
To protect your identity and personal information, First Bank strongly encourages our clients to take the actions noted below.
• Review account statements to spot any suspicious transactions, and monitor account activity online at any time from your computer or mobile device, when enrolled in our online banking.
• If you spot any suspicious transactions, please contact us immediately at 1-800-538-3979.
• Consider if you should place an initial fraud alert on your credit report (see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert).
• Consider if you should freeze your credit file (see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs).
• Review your credit reports for accuracy. Call any one of the three credit reporting agencies to receive your free annual credit report by visiting www.annualcreditreport.gov or calling 877-322-8228.
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• You should also contact the credit reporting agencies to notify them of any suspected fraud or identity theft.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement office and/or your state attorney general. Finally, you may also want to consider reviewing information about recovering from identity theft, which is available from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.identitytheft.gov/ or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). The FTC also offers general information to protect your online presence at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity-online-security.
Equifax has established a dedicated toll-free number to answer questions you may have about the Equifax data breach and its effect on your personally identifiable information. You may call them at 866-447-7559.
We would also like to take the time to share some industry best practices on what you can do going forward. Please contact a First Bank branch to find out more information on any of the services listed below.
• My Mobile Money: Our free smartphone app for Apple and Android that allows you to monitor and control your debit card activity, including the ability to turn on/off your card when not in use.
• Account notes: When traveling out of the country, it is always best to let us know. This ensures that only you can access your funds.
• Electronic Statement Storage: Keep up to 18 months of bank statements secure within First Bank Online Banking to eliminate the risk of your account information being lost or stolen in the mail. You will receive a convenient email alert when your statement(s) is (are) ready.
Finally, after the Equifax data breach, some experts state that year-end tax planning may be crucial. Social Security numbers were among the data exposed during the Equifax breach. You should begin thinking about the tax season ahead, as criminals could potentially use the stolen Social Security numbers to file fraudulent tax returns.
The IRS estimated that during the first 9 months of 2016, extra safeguards they had implemented helped to stop $4 billion dollars of fraudulent returns, but it still paid out $239 million in ‘suspect’ funds. Many experts say you should go by the motto “file first and beat the crooks” to close the window of opportunity that they have to steal your identity by filing a false tax return. If you normally receive a large refund each year, you may want to consider adjusting your withholdings to limit the possible exposure to identity theft from the filing of a false tax return under your Social Security number.