Protecting Your Finances After Equifax Data Breach
Credit reporting company Equifax reported a data breach that could potentially affect 143 million U.S. consumers. According to the credit bureau, the hackers gained unauthorized access to files from mid-May through July. Stolen information includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Equifax is one of three nationwide credit-reporting companies that track and rate the financial history of U.S. consumers. For those who think their information may have been breached, here are steps to take to protect your data.
Check Credit Reports
Consumers should check their credit reports with all major reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The reports are available free annually via creditreport.com. Consumer may not detect any unauthorized activity yet, but should keep an eye out for any accounts they don’t recognize.
Equifax has established a website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to help consumers determine if their information has been affected, and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identify theft protection. These services are being offered through TrustedID Premier and include credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identify theft insurance; and internet scanning for Social Security numbers. The service is free to U.S. consumers for one year, regardless of whether you were affected by the breach.
To enroll, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the Check Potential Impact tab. You will be asked to submit your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. You will receive a message indicating whether you’ve been affected and provided a date when you can return to the site to sign up for the service.
Check Bank Statements and Credit Card Statements
Consumers should check their bank statements and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.
Consider a Credit Freeze
It is a complicated step, but a credit freeze will take your credit report out of circulation. If someone else goes to take out a loan in your name, the lender will not be able to pull your report without your consent to temporarily lift the freeze. According to Eva Velasquez, Chief Executive and President of Identify Theft Resource Center, “a credit freeze is one of the most robust and proactive steps that you can take, but because of the added level of complexity, some people don’t see it as a good fit.”
If you have additional questions, Equifax is offering a dedicated call center for consumers: 1-866-447-7559. It is open every day, including weekends, from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m Eastern time.