As you’re likely aware, the credit reporting agency Equifax was recently hacked and thieves stole the personal information of more than 143 million people. This is one of the largest data breaches of all time, and it’s also one of the worst due to the sensitive nature of the information compromised, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and possibly drivers’ license numbers and credit card numbers. Worst case scenario for you? An attacker could open up a bank account or loan in your name or use the information to steal your tax refund, Social Security check, or prescription drugs.
We recommend the following proactive measures to minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft in the future:
- Equifax will not be sending out emails to possible victims, therefore do not click on any emails from Equifax.
- Use extra caution with emails and links. Do not click on an email if you do not recognize the sender, and avoid clicking on any links or opening attachments.
- Change your passwords for any critical online accounts and your email address. Once hackers have access to ID and password information they routinely try the same combination across multiple platforms.
- Check your debit/credit card and bank accounts for suspicious activity.
- Do not give out any personal information over the telephone or email.
- Be on alert for anything odd, such as a notice about an account you didn’t apply for, a letter from a company thanking you for your recent business, or a medical explanation of benefits for a service you didn’t receive.
Specific to your credit report, we recommend the following:
- Use annualcreditreport.com to review your credit report (free annually). Review it carefully and take action if you see anything suspicious. You should review your credit report for all three agencies since each one may have different information on record.
- Consider placing a 90-day Fraud Alert on your credit report, which will require lenders to contact you if anyone tries to apply for credit (including you) in the next three months; it’s free to initiate and renew. You can do this with any of the agencies and the alert will be placed on all three.
Equifax: www.Equifax.com or 888-766-0008
Experian: www.Experian.com or 888-397-3742
Transunion: www.Transunion.com or 800-680-7289
- You might also consider placing a Security Freeze, which restricts any bank/lender from pulling your credit report. This means that identity thieves (or you) cannot open credit cards or other loans in your name, until you temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit. You must place a Security Freeze with each agency, which may have a nominal fee.
Identity theft can affect people’s lives for years. The best way to reduce the impact is to secure your information as soon as possible to prevent its misuse.