The credit reporting agency Equifax recently reported a major cyber security breach, with hackers gaining access to the sensitive personal data of as many as 143 million Americans. Affected data includes Social Security numbers, birth dates, home addresses, driver’s licenses, and credit card numbers.
As one of the country’s three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax collects and analyzes the financial records and data of consumers around the world. The unauthorized access occurred between May through July 2017. Equifax said it will be alerting those affected by mail.
If you are concerned that you may be at risk of identity theft, below are a number of steps you can consider taking to protect yourself.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
Visit Equifax’s Data Breach Site
Equifax has set up the site www.equifaxsecurity2017.com for people to find out if their information was exposed. Equifax is also offering a year of free credit monitoring. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll. Note that there had been some concern among consumer advocates about language in the website’s terms of service. Equifax has since changed the language in its terms of service and confirmed that enrolling in the free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services does not prohibit consumers from taking legal action. Since Equifax is asking for the last six digits of your Social Security number in order to use the service, make sure you access the site from a secure computer.
Monitor your credit report
You can request a free copy of your credit report once a year from the three major credit reporting agencies. If you notice accounts or activity that you don’t recognize, this could be evidence of identity theft. If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, you should contact local law enforcement authorities and visit IdentityTheft.gov to file a report and find out what further steps you can take to protect yourself.
Put a freeze on your credit
Placing a credit freeze on your files can help prevent someone from using your stolen information to open a new account in your name. However, a credit freeze won’t prevent fraudulent charges on your existing accounts.
Place a fraud alert on your files
Setting up a fraud alert with all three credit bureaus will warn your creditors that you may have been the victim of identity theft and keep watch for anyone trying to open an account, such as a credit card, in your name.
Keep an eye on your bank accounts and credit cards
Review your transaction history frequently and stay on the lookout for charges you don’t recognize.
Change your log-in credentials
Reset account passwords, PIN codes, and other log-in credentials on financial accounts that may be vulnerable.
Set up multiple-authentication protocols
Establish multiple-authentication protocols for financial accounts and email when possible.
File your taxes early
The Federal Trade Commission recommends you file your taxes as soon as you can in order to give criminals less time to use your Social Security number to commit tax identity theft.