Equifax Breach: What Should You Do to Protect Yourself?
The big news this past week has been the Equifax breach.
On September 7, Equifax — a top credit reporting firm — announced that hackers stole consumer data from mid-May through July 2017, affecting 143 million people. Hackers stole customer names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses. A smaller set of consumers also had their credit card numbers and other documents taken.
This is one of the largest data breaches in US history and the biggest known leak so far in 2017.
The size of this breach has alarmed consumers and lawmakers, and Equifax has been highly criticized for its handling of the breach so far.
Were you affected by the Equifax breach?
You can find out if you were affected by the Equifax breach by following these steps.
- Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/
- Click the Potential Impact button at the bottom of the page.
- Read the steps.
- Click the Check Potential Impact button.
- Enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your Social Security Number.
- Click Continue.
You should then receive a notification about your impact status. Note that you do not need to continue with enrolling in Equifax’s Trusted ID program, which the site will prompt you to do. This program is entirely optional, and not one that we would recommend. If you were one of the smaller number of people with other information stolen, such as your credit card number, you should receive a notification by mail from Equifax.
What should you do if your personal info was compromised?
Here are some next steps you can do if your information was compromised, or if you are concerned that it might be. These are also steps to take in case of any data breach or hack that you think might have compromised you.
- Watch out for phishing emails that claim to be from Equifax. Hackers may use Equifax’s name to trick you into revealing sensitive information by asking you to check if your data was compromised. Also look out for emails that claim a problem with your credit card or other personal financial information.
- Enroll in an identity protection program or credit monitoring service. Since Equifax itself is a credit monitoring agency, you may wish to opt for a paid third-party service such as IDShield or LifeLock instead of Equifax’s Trusted ID program.
- Check your credit reports. You can check your credit reports for free here. Look through your credit reports for any suspicious activity.
- Report any fraudulent or suspicious charges on your credit card immediately.
- Freeze your credit, which requires a PIN that only you have to unfreeze it. You can contact a credit bureau to freeze your credit, and the process is usually automated. Check for advice on how to freeze your credit on a state-by-state basis here.
- Set up a fraud alert so that credit card companies have to verify your identity before opening an account. To do so, contact a credit bureau.
- Remain vigilant about checking your credit report, even after some time has passed.
And if you suspect your identity has been stolen in the Equifax breach or any other hack, learn how to protect yourself here at the Identity Theft Resource Center or call their toll-free number at 888-400-5530.