I’m sure you’ve all heard by now about how Equifax was hacked into recently, and 143 million American consumers personal information was exposed. The hack took place between May and July of this year, but Equifax only recently decided to inform the public about what happened.
What Information Did They Get?
The hacker’s were able to access people’s names, addresses, birth dates, social security numbers, and in some cases, drivers license numbers. There were also 209,000 people whose credit card numbers were stolen.
What should You Do?
The first thing you should do is check to see if your personal information was compromised. Visit www.Equifaxsecurity2017.com to check. It will ask you to enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number. It will either say: “your information was NOT compromised”, (as it did for my wife) OR, it will say, “your information MAY HAVE BEEN compromised”, (as it did for myself).
FREE Credit Monitoring
Whether or not your information was exposed, everyone gets a free year of credit monitoring service from Equifax. I’m not really sure how much this will help since they are the ones who got hacked into, but I signed myself and my wife up anyway. It doesn’t ask for any payment info, so you don’t need to worry about them dinging your credit card if you forget to cancel a subscription.
FREE Credit Freeze
The next thing you need to do it to put a freeze on your credit information. This is also a free service, but it’s offered by Experian, one of the competitors to Equifax. By freezing your credit info, no one will be able to even pull your credit, let alone open a new line of credit in your name. They make is easy to unfreeze your credit if in fact you do need to apply for a credit card, car loan, home mortgage, etc. Visit www.experian.com/freeze to sign up. I’ve had a freeze on my credit for years with them and it works great!
Check Your Credit Report
Everyone gets a free copy of their credit report once per year. Look your report over and make sure you don’t see anything unfamiliar. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get your copy.
Monitor Your Bank Accounts & Credit Cards
Review your statements closely to make sure there aren’t charges you don’t recognize.
File Your Taxes Early
One common form of identity theft that scammers use is to file a tax return with your social security number and get a refund. Then when you go to file your real return, the IRS tells you, “Sorry, you’ve already filed, see you next year.” As soon as you get your W-2’s and 1099’s, get that return filed before someone in Zimbabwe does it for you.
Consider A Credit Monitoring Service
You may prefer to sign up for a credit monitoring service by a third party such as LifeLock. They will alert you if anyone is trying to access your credit to make sure it’s legitimate. You’ll have to pay for a service like this, but I’ve had many clients tell me it helps them sleep better at night.
Order New Cards
It may cause some annoyance on your end, but changing your credit card numbers will eliminate the chance that someone may put a bogus charge on your account. It won’t cost you anything to get new/different cards, besides entering your new card information into Amazon’s site.
Identity theft really is a big deal, and can cause you a lot of problems if you ever get burned by it. The scary thing is, once your personal information is out there, it’s out there. You can’t change your social security number or birth date. You never know when you could have a problem either. It could be next month, next year, or in 10 years. I hope that some changes will be made in the laws that allow these credit reporting companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to collect and share information about us, without our consent. I’d like to be able to put a freeze on not only my credit info, but all my personal info, and not allow them to sell it to third parties. Hopefully that will be coming soon!
Feel free to share your thoughts!