Much of the headlines are ignoring the recent data breach at Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies, announcing that 143 million American consumers personal information was exposed from mid-May through July.
Individual names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and some driver’s license numbers were stolen. Assume your identity has been compromised and act now to mitigate the potential for identity theft. Take action now and protect your information from being misused.
1. Get a year of free credit monitoring
Equifax is suggesting customers sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection through its TrustedID Premier business, regardless of whether you've been impacted by the hack. To enroll and/or check whether you were affected, visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Check Potential Impact tab. You'll need to provide your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once submitted, you will receive a message indicating whether you've been affected.
2. Go to annualcreditreport.com
Get your free annual credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to check your data for activity or accounts you do not recognize that could indicate identity theft. Also monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts.
3. Place a credit freeze on your files
This makes it difficult for someone to open a new account or get loans in your name, because lenders can’t do the required credit check. To place on freeze on your credit call the following numbers:
- Equifax Credit Freeze - 1-800-349-9960
- TransUnion Credit Freeze - 1-888-909-8872
- Experion Credit Freeze - 1-888-397-3742
Freezes can be “thawed” as needed, like when you are applying for a home equity line or switching insurance providers.
4. Place a fraud alert on your files
If you choose not to freeze your files, consider placing a fraud alert, which warns creditors that you may have been a victim of identity theft and they should verify your identity before granting credit in your name. To report Medicare fraud call 1-800-447-8477.
5. File your taxes early
Once you have received all of your tax information, get your taxes filed immediately before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS. If you suspect crooks are going after your tax refund, call the IRS at 1-800-908-4490.
Lastly, contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 if your Social Security number is used for identity theft or visitIdentitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.