Are you one of the millions of people impacted by Equifax’s data breach?
Equifax announced they may have exposed private information belonging to 143 million people. The massive breach includes information such as social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, and driver’s license numbers. The breach happened on July 29th, and the company waited nearly six weeks to notify customers. This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said 5.4 million Illinois residents had their personal financial information exposed in the breach.
If you were one of the many exposed in the breach, here are a few tips to protect yourself and guard against identity theft:
- Find Out if your Information was Exposed: To learn if you have been affected by the breach, visit Equifax’s website, https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Once on the website, click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Remember, your Social Security number is sensitive, so the Federal Trade Commission recommends using a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter your SSN.
- Credit Monitoring: One of the best ways to create peace of mind would be to obtain credit watch services. Typically, the credit bureaus charge for a subscription. However, Equifax is providing this subscription for one year at no cost to those affected. The service being provided includes reporting across all three of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. The typical Equifax credit monitoring subscription allows you to quickly access your reports to identify any anomalies. It also has an App for quick access. You can also set alerts to be emailed to you should a change occur. According to the FTC, you have until November 21, 2017 to enroll in the free service from Equifax.
- Review Credit Reports: Anyone concerned should use this opportunity to pull a credit report (3 in 1 covers all three of the major bureaus) to see what items are on your credit reports. This is good to do for anyone to check the accuracy of even legitimate information. If you see anomalies, you should address them promptly.
- Use Caution with a Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert: Some suggest to place a credit freeze or fraud alert on credit reports. These should be used with caution, particularly if one intends to apply for credit in the near future. The freeze and fraud alert may cause more frustration and hurdles should the consumer seek to obtain credit while they exist on the reports. Should one be inclined to add a fraud alert, use the 6 month or smaller time frame if available. You can always renew. Everyone should regularly monitor their credit cards and statements for irregularities.
- Change Passwords: This might be a good time to change your password to Equifax and other financial institutions. In choosing passwords, follow recommendations provided by the vendors, use different passwords, and regularly change them in any case. An App that tracks all of your passwords such as 1Password will help enable you to maintain the passwords in a convenient location. But, if you use such an App, be sure you have a password or biometric requirement to access the phone and App. While convenient to have all passwords in one location, this could be disastrous if the contents of your phone are easily accessible.
- File your Taxes Early: To avoid tax identify theft, file your taxes as soon as you have your tax information, so a scammer cannot file for you.
Of course, one should be cautious in obtaining new cards, terminating accounts, inquiring on new credit, or making any other changes. Any change in financial accounts cam affect one’s credit scores.
Mudd Law Offices represents victims of identity theft and data security. If you are facing identity theft issues as a result of the Equifax data breach, our firm can assist you with restoring your credit and legal records. Contact our firm for more information.