The revelation that Equifax had a major data breach that impacts millions of American consumers has people on edge, no doubt. Having one’s personal information stolen is no small matter.
Filene, the non-profit, independent think tank for the consumer finance industry, recommends that consumers take the following steps to find out whether you were personally affected. Equifax is offering complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring regardless of whether your information may have been impacted.
To determine if your personal information may have been impacted by this incident:
- Visit https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact. You will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social security number.
- Based on the information, you will receive a message indicating whether your personal information may have been impacted by this incident.
- Regardless of whether your information may have been impacted, Equifax will provide you the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier. The enrollment period ends November 21, 2017. Be sure to read the terms.
Staying Safe After the Breach – Remain Vigilant
It is vital that you remain vigilant and protect your personal data. Each day, we face unprecedented attempts targeting our data through phishing, malware insertions, and social engineering campaigns. protecting your personal information is the best defense against these types of attacks. Here are a few easy steps you can take to protect your personal information:
- Don’t respond to email, text or telephone calls asking for personal or financial information. Criminals have been known to use date breaches and other incidents to send out emails and social media posts hoping to trick people into providing their information. Delete any suspicious emails or posts; if you have any doubt, throw it out!!
- Lock down your login – where available, always use strong authentication including 2-factor, or two step verification to protect your most valuable accounts such a email, social media and other financial accounts.
- Use unique passwords for each of your accounts. This helps to contain threats to your accounts if your credentials are stolen.
- Frequently review account activity and immediately report unauthorized transactions.
- Monitor activity on your financial, and credit card statements by implementing a fraud alert with one of the three credit bureaus or other services that monitor your credit (this is typically free if you are a victim of a data breach). For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission website identitytheft.gov.
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – FOR FREE – by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You can obtain one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies every 12 months. It is suggested that by spacing those reports, consumers can view a report every four months to ensure that information is accurate. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Turn on alerts and notifications. Most banking and financial accounts provide the option of sending you text or e-mail alerts after any account activity. Turn these on where available.
- Credit freeze or fraud alert – Consider placing a credit freeze which makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- Keep your devices updated – Prevent infections by updating critical software patches or new operating system versions when they become available. The easiest way is to make sure your device software is set to “auto-update”.
- Install security products – This includes anti-virus, anti-malware, and other common consumer security products and make sure you keep them in the default mode of “auto-update”.
- File your taxes early – As soon as you have the tax information you need, 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. IRS will ONLY contact you by mail.