When news broke about the colossal data breach at Equifax a few weeks ago, experts recommended that affected consumers help protect themselves from ID theft by freezing their credit reports at each of the three main credit bureaus.
But there’s a little-mentioned fourth bureau, called Innovis, that at least one cybersecurity expert is advising consumers not to ignore. Innovis, founded in 1970 and based in Columbus, Ohio, provides businesses with identity verification, credit reports and fraud prevention services.
“Many people still are not aware how big Innovis has become and how many organizations are using them for consumer credit checks now,” said Brian Krebs, who runs the computer security and cybercrime website, KrebsonSecurity.com
Consumers considering security freezes at the big three – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – also should consider requesting one with Innovis, he said. The freeze can be done online at innovis.com/personal/securityFreeze
Freezing credit reports prevents credit bureaus from releasing people’s files without their permission. Because most businesses won’t extend credit without checking a consumer’s credit history, ID thieves are blocked from opening fraudulent accounts.
The consumer group U.S. Pirg, among others, has recommended consumers caught up in the Equifax breach consider credit freezes at Equifax, Experian and Trans-Union.
When asked about Innovis, U.S. Pirg said requesting a freeze with that bureau “wouldn’t hurt.”
“We don’t recommend Innovis for a freeze because it is used primarily by creditors buying lists of consumers for marketing [pre-screening] purposes,” said Mike Litt, consumer advocate at U.S. Pirg in Washington, D.C.
Krebs said consumers might also want to opt out of pre-approved credit offers because ID thieves like to raid mailboxes and steal the offers. People can opt out for 5 years or permanently, or opt back in if they change their mind, at optoutprescreen.com
Freezing credit records doesn’t protect consumers from fraud involving existing accounts, such as tax refund and health insurance fraud.
The best defense is to regularly review credit files, bank accounts and Social Security statements for signs of unauthorized activity.
Because security breaches are so common these days, Krebs thinks everyone should behave as though their personal data has been stolen, not just those victimized in the Equifax breach.
Sensitive information “is broadly for sale in the cybercrime underground to anyone who wishes to buy it and use it for fraudulent purposes,” he said.
To find out if your personal data was compromised in the Equifax breach visit equifaxsecurity2017.com
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