On September 7th, 2017, Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus, revealed that hackers had gained access to their company data from May to July 2017. This data breach compromised the personally identifying information of 143 million American consumers, including names, social security numbers, addresses, dates of birth and driver license numbers. In addition, about 209,000 customer credit cards were compromised along with personal identification documents from 182,000 accounts in dispute.
This information could be used by criminals to open new credit accounts, file for tax refund anticipation loans, or otherwise impersonate individuals in a way that can be severely damaging to the victim’s finances and credit history.
Here are some steps you can take to protect your personal information, identity and credit score.
1: Find out if you were affected – Equifax has created a site at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com where you can see if you were one of the millions of people whose data was compromised by the breach.
2. Sign up for credit monitoring – Equifax is offering free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all U.S. consumers for one year, regardless of whether they were impacted by this incident. To find out if you were affected by the breach and to enroll for Equifax’s credit monitoring service go to the www.equifaxsecurity2017.com page where you will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
To sign up for free credit monitoring you will be asked to provide additional information to verify your identity including a valid email address and mobile number. Within a few days, you will receive an email with a link to activate Equifax’ TrustedID Premier credit monitoring service. When the email arrives, you will need to follow the link to verify your email address and complete your enrollment. The enrollment period ends on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.
3. Check Your Credit Reports – You can obtain a free copy of your credit report from each of the reporting agencies once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Check your credit reports and financial statements on a regular basis to look out for any suspicious activity such as payments you don’t recognize or accounts that you didn’t open. If you suspect someone used your identity to open credit card accounts or take out loans you must contact the company’s fraud department immediately.
4. Set up a Fraud Alert – A fraud alert makes it harder for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When a fraud alert is set, companies are required to verify your identity by contacting you directly before opening a new credit account. To set a fraud alert, contact one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. You only need to contact one of the companies for the alert to be set, and it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it.
5: Put a Freeze on Your Credit – If you want to make it even harder for anyone pretending to be you to open a new line of credit in your name you can contact the credit bureaus and place a freeze on your credit file to restrict access to your credit report.
6: File Your Taxes Early! – Criminals have used stolen identity information to file taxes to receive a tax refund anticipation loan. File your taxes early in order to file before an impostor tries to file with your info. Contact the IRS immediately if you suspect a fraudulent return has been filed with your info.
Helpful Contact Info for Credit Bureaus & FTC
Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center