CEO and President of Community Bankers of Michigan Mike Tierney called the breach of four million Michiganders' private information in the Equifax hacks a “very unfortunate situation.”
“There’s a huge cost to everyone and eventually it leads to higher prices for everyone,” Tierney said.
He says many of his customers may not know for years if their information is being sold on the dark web.
“I wouldn’t expect that there’s much impact right away, but it is going to happen over the next 24 months,” he said.
In order to safeguard against identity theft, which might include attempting to gain access to withdraw funds or attempting to apply for credit, Tierney recommends the following three steps:
1.) Check your online account statements.
“In this digital age, the reality is with online banking account statements, more customers do not open them than do open them.” He said that Michiganders should skim over their statements for inconsistencies and contact their bank within 60-90 days of its posting. He also recommended that parents of children and caregivers of the elderly should check online statements as these accounts are often easy targets.
2.) Set up a fraud alert.
“Do a fraud alert, a step below a credit freeze. It will notify you if someone is accessing your credit report. It’s more convenient than doing a credit or security freeze,” Tierney said. He said that although freezing an account usually only costs $5 to $10, that it can't be automatically undone. For example, he said he’s planning on buying a new car in the next sixty days. He can’t freeze his account, even though his was breached, because he’ll need to apply for credit. But he said an alert allows him to monitor it for any other credit applications that he might not have authorized.
3.) Cut up your cards.
“When these identify thieves get your information, they’ll go to multiple sources of information and they’ll put that information together. Even if they didn’t get that information from Equifax, they’ll try to get it from someplace else and match it up,” Tierney said. He said even if his customers aren’t some of the 200,000 in that state to have their credit card numbers and PINs stolen, that he recommends the ultimate safeguard would be contacting their bank for new cards.
“A data breach of 2 and a half million records on its own would be huge. But it’s unprecedented to have 145 million people impacted,” he said.
Diligence both on the part of banks and their customers will be key moving forward.