Unfortunately, hacking and data breaches continue to be more and more commonplace. Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said that on Thursday, the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers for 143 million people may have been accessed by hackers. That kind of information could be used by someone else to open bank accounts, credit cards and loans in your name. The credit card numbers of an additional 209,000 people were also accessed. Those people will be notified directly. Everyone else must go to a website created by Equifax and submit their last name and last six digits of their Social Security number to find out if they were affected.
If you’re concerned about whether your information has landed in the hands of hackers, here are five things you can do right now:
1. Enroll in Credit Monitoring or Identity Theft Protection Service
While there is usually a cost involved with a credit monitoring service or identity theft protection, Equifax is offering a free year of credit monitoring through its TrustedID Premier business, regardless of whether you’ve been affected by the hack. The credit monitoring service “includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers.” Be sure to read the details, as you may waive your right to sue the company for the hack if you took advantage of the free credit monitoring.
2. Check Your Credit
This breach actually happened three months ago, so there’s a chance that your information is already being used. Check your credit report and make sure there’s nothing out of the ordinary happening. But keep in mind, most credit monitoring services only track your credit reports. They still won’t alert you to suspicious activity on your credit card or in your bank accounts. These services won’t prevent fraud from happening. But some do offer identity recovery services to help you regain control of your finances after identity theft occurs. The government offers a free resource for recovering from identity theft at IdentityTheft.gov.
3. Freeze Your Credit
This is an extreme step and might not be necessary, especially if you don’t know for sure that you’re information was compromised, or what personal information was stolen. A freeze blocks anyone from accessing your credit reports without your permission. But it can be an inconvenience for you, too. If you want to take out a loan or open a new credit card, you’ll have to contact the reporting agency to temporarily lift the freeze. It’s also not free. Fees to freeze your account vary by state, but commonly range from $5 to $10 If you freeze your credit, then anyone who wants to use your credit to open an account with needs a special Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you’re not planning on making any big purchases soon or opening any new credit cards, then it can be a good preventative move in keeping your credit safe.
4. Set a Fraud Alert
Setting up a fraud alert is another one of those things that will make using your credit a bit of a hassle, but can keep you protected. If you set up a fraud alert, then a company will have to verify your identity before they can open an account in your name. You set one up by contacting a credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), and they last 90 days.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Bank Statements, Credit Card Statements, and Taxes
It is wise to always review your bank statements and credit card statements for unusual charges, but especially after such a security breach. Also, hackers will sometimes use stolen personal info to file false tax returns to get refunds. That means if you file your taxes after them, you might get a message from the IRS saying your taxes have already been filed. If you can, make sure to file your taxes on the early side this year.
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Sources: http://lifehacker.com/what-to-do-if-you-were-affected-by-the-equifax-hack-1803081696, http://money.cnn.com/2017/09/09/pf/what-to-do-equifax-hack/index.html