As you have most likely heard, Equifax, one of the “Big 3” credit reporting agencies was hacked. They are calling it a “breach,” but don’t misunderstand, they were hacked. Equifax was hacked. This means that if you’ve ever used credit, you could be one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive, personal information was exposed in this Equifax breach.
At this point, they are still unraveling details, but here is what we do know. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. Hackers gained access to names, Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates and in some cases, even driver’s license numbers. Hackers also gained access to credit card numbers to over 200,000 people. And, it’s not just people in America that were hacked – people in the UK and Canada are at risk as well.
So, does this breach affect you? Possibly. But you won’t know until you check. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends taking the following six steps to learn about your potential exposure and keep your information safe:
- Visit the Equifax website at www.Equifaxsecurity2017.com to find out if your information was exposed. Go to the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Please make sure that you are on a secure computer. Do NOT take this step using public WiFi. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by the breach.
- Even if your information was not exposed, you are eligible to receive a year of free credit monitoring and other security services. Sign up ASAP! You have until January 31, 2018 to enroll.
- Check your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can do so at no cost by visiting annualcreditreport.com. If you see activity that you don’t recognize, you might have been a victim of identity theft. If something seems off, go to IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Monitor your credit and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- Consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your accounts. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name and a fraud alert will warn creditors that you may be an identity theft victim. But, remember, neither a credit freeze or fraud alert will stop thieves from making charges to your existing accounts.
- File your taxes as early as possible. The longer you wait, the longer you give thieves to use your Social Security number to get a tax refund.
If nothing else, this Equifax breach should teach us all a lesson that anyone who uses credit or submits sensitive data electronically (ALL OF US!) are vulnerable. Make reviewing your credit and other financial information a regular habit so that you stay safe.