Cybersecurity Alert: What You Need To Do Now In Response to the Equifax Breach

September 8, 2017
Credit agency Equifax announced yesterday that it suffered a data breach affecting 143 million U.S. consumers.
The hack exposed names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers—all critical pieces of information used by identity thieves to impersonate people and conduct fraud.
This is probably the most consequential data breach in history, considering that nearly all U.S. adults have their credit histories on file with Equifax and the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion.
While it’s true that for some time that the public’s personal information has been available for sale in the black market, no data breach as comprehensive as this one has ever occurred.
That’s why it’s critical for you to take significant steps to protect yourself now—steps that exceed the response Equifax is currently recommending.
Here’s what you need to do immediately to safeguard your information.
Freeze your credit
If you have not done so already, it is imperative that you freeze your credit immediately at each of the three credit bureaus. We have been recommending this course of action for years.
A security freeze, also called a credit freeze, locks your credit file at each bureau with a special PIN that only you know. That PIN must be used in order for anyone to access your credit file, or add new credit in your name.
(Note: As of now, Equifax does not believe that security PINs were accessed by hackers. If you had a security freeze in place at Equifax before the hack your PIN should still be protected. But that could change.)
Credit bureaus rarely emphasize freezing your credit file because it’s not in their best interest, or their clients—banks and other companies that grant credit. Instead, they recommend “credit monitoring,” a largely useless and ineffective service that charges you money to tell you when your open, or unfrozen, credit file has been accessed.
In essence, they tell you that you may have a credit breach problem AFTER the fact, which isn’t protection against identity theft.
A security freeze gives you complete control of your credit file. Unlike credit monitoring or fraud alerts, a security freeze stops an identity theft from happening rather than alerting you to potential fraud after it has happened.
Reminder: We also recommend freezing the credit files of your minor children! If a minor child's identity is stolen, it is often not discovered for years - not until they try to apply for credit of their own later in life!
How to do it
To set up a security freeze you must contact all three of the credit bureaus individually. This process can be done online or over the phone. You will be asked some questions to confirm your identity but it only takes a few minutes.
We recommend beginning with Experian and Transunion as Equifax’s website is currently receiving high traffic.
You can freeze your credit by using the following phone numbers and links:
Depending on your state, freezing your credit can cost anywhere from $0 to $10 at each bureau. Proven identity theft victims can have this fee waived. (If you need to lift the freeze you will have to pay the same fee.)
To lift your freeze you simply contact the bureau used by the lender and provide your PIN to lift the freeze for a certain period of time. This can be done online or over the phone. It may take a few days for the freeze to be lifted so be sure to do it a few days in advance.
Was I affected?
You can see if you were a victim of Equifax’s hack by visiting and entering your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. You can also wait to receive a letter from Equifax.
Regardless, take this time to freeze your credit. Given the sheer volume of breaches in the past few years, it is likely your information has already been exposed. Freezing your credit will give you peace of mind and is a crucial step in protecting your identity from hackers.
Don’t wait! Take action now!

Source: Horsesmouth Savvy Cybersecurity
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Money Lessons from Hurricane Harvey

August 30, 2017


All of our hearts go out to the people in Texas dealing with the hurricane and the unprecedented tropical storm that has followed. Seeing the images on TV of the flooding, the rescues, and the people in shelters has had us thinking about what we all can learn from this.


Gratitude for what’s most important.  In everyday life it’s easy to focus on getting ahead, material accumulation, and the minutia and worries of daily life. Sadly, sometimes it takes a huge event to wake us up and bring our attention back to what is most important in life. It can be an illness, death of a loved one, or like Hurricane Harvey, a natural disaster. In the TV interviews we notice over and over that people will mention the loss, fear, and grief they are feeling, but also their gratitude for getting out safely and for the responders and volunteers who have helped.


Take a moment right now and think of three things you are most grateful for in your life. A focus on gratitude can move you from fear, sadness, and worry to allow you to be better able to actually help and support.


Prepare for the unexpected.  Don’t miss the message that those of us left physically unscathed by this disaster can learn from the people affected. Do you have the proper homeowners and auto insurance in place? Do you have a box with important documents you can grab if you needed to leave your home quickly or do you have this information securely stored on line where you could easily access? Have you built up your solutions fund (aka emergency fund) in case your income stops for a while?


Help where you can. It is so inspiring seeing ordinary citizens in their boats, kayaks, and Jet Ski’s recuing people. The stories of neighbors helping neighbors are so heartwarming. Actually watching other’s kind acts can inspire and motivate more good deeds. It can be difficult to watch a lot of news as it feels so bad – but this type of news is different. This is when humanity is at its best. If you aren’t helping directly with the flood victims in Texas, where can you lend a hand or do a kind deed?


Open your heart and your wallet.Don’t just feel badly about this disaster; listen to the pull you are feeling to help. Donate what you can. The need is expected to go on for a long time with so many people displaced from their homes. There are so many good organizations that are contributing to the relief effort in Texas. Find one that speaks to you.


The American Red Cross Hurricane Harvey disaster relief is a popular and impactful choice for donations. One of our partners, TD Ameritrade Institutional, is offering to match each donation made on its sitedoubling the impact of every dollar given.  Click here to donate with a match.


Sending love and light to all those affected by Harvey and the aftermath….


All of us Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd.


Source: Ellen Rogin, CPA, CFP®

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Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd.
150 East State Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
Phone: 215-340-5777
Fax: 215-340-5788

Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. a Registered Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisory Services offered through Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd., a Registered Investment Advisor. Kohlhepp Investment Advisors, Ltd. and Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. are not affiliated.

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