Chances are if you have ever had a credit card or loan, you have a credit history and you may be one of the 143 million Americans whose personal information was compromised in the recent data breach at Equifax, the world’s largest credit reporting agency. Most consumers are not aware that Equifax holds their data, but it is important to know that Equifax collects and aggregates information of an estimated 800 million people worldwide. While we can exercise little control over what happened to us through an outside agency, there are steps we can take to make sure we protect ourselves from further losses due to this data breach. If you own at least one credit card, you will need to take the following steps right away:
Check your credit report:
Check your credit reports from the three leading credit reporting sites including Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion. This can be done for free by visiting annualcreditreport.com. If any accounts or transactions look suspicious to you, this could mean you are a victim of identity theft.
Place a credit freeze: Place a credit freeze on your account, which makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Remember, this might not prevent someone with a malicious intent from using your credit cards.
Monitor your credit cards and bank accounts closely. Take immediate action if you see any charges or activity that you do not recognize.
Make use of the free credit monitoring service for a year offered by Equifax to all affected consumers. You have until November 21, 2017, to enroll.
Consider setting a fraud alert:
Although this will not prevent someone from trying to open an account or request a credit limit increase on an existing account, setting up a fraud alert will require lenders to follow additional steps to verify your identity.
In addition to the above steps, it is important to know with whom you are sharing your information online or in person. Do not give your personal details like your social security number or your date of birth to anyone you do not trust. Store and dispose of your personal information securely. Maintain and update your security on your personal computers or other electronic devices. You can find more information on secure online behavior here. For general safety tips on cybersecurity and ways to avoid frauds and scams, please refer to our blog on Cyber Security Awareness. While we cannot stop data breaches completely, we must do our part to make it hard for hackers and other online data thieves to gain access our personal data by following these security measures.