Lynda Doland shares advice on what you need to know to protect your assets and credit.
The Equifax data breach is a trending headline this week. Announced last Thursday, the breach involves the potential compromise of the personal data of 143 million consumers.
Who is Equifax?
Equifax is one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. The company collects banking and lending data on consumers and businesses that companies use to determine the amount they’ll give out in loans or on credit cards. The biggest mistake you can make is to think that because you’ve never given Equifax your information before, your information isn’t compromised. Unfortunately, Equifax doesn’t need your permission to compile your information.
Between mid-May and July, hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some instances, driver license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers from 209,000 people. Equifax confirmed that hackers stole personal information for as many as 143 million individuals.
What Should You Do
- Find out if your information has been compromised. Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com by typing this URL directly into your browser. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Anytime you are entering sensitive information it’s important to make sure you’re on a secure computer or an encrypted network connection.
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com.
- Freeze your credit. According to Consumer Reports, the fastest way to protect yourself from the Equifax data breach is to place a security freeze on your credit files. A credit freeze lets you restrict access to your credit report. To freeze your credit, you need to contact each of the credit bureaus using the following phone numbers:
- Sign up for identity theft protection. Equifax is offering a year of its TrustedID Premier credit monitoring for free.
- Add fraud alerts to your files. Fraud alerts prevent someone from opening new credit accounts in your name. Theses alerts require creditors to verify your identity before they can get a copy of your credit report.
- File your taxes early. Once information is stolen, scammers can use stolen numbers to file fraudulent tax returns and receive refunds. File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information you need before a scammer can.
Other cautionary measures you can take include activating two-step authentication, making sure you have strong, unique passwords and avoiding links from sources you don’t trust. Make sure you are taking the necessary precautions to safeguard your information.