By now, you may have heard about the recent cyber security incident at Equifax, one of the largest
credit reporting agencies in the United States. Popular news sources have reported that nearly 143 million people or nearly half of the U.S. population.
Credit reporting agencies work differently from other data companies, so while you may never have dealt with Equifax, their servers were still likely to have your data.
Here are some tips to help you protect yourself:
- Equifax has set up an online registry you can check using your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, but it doesn’t offer satisfying results (check back in later this month!). There are also questions about an arbitration clause and what you’re really getting from its offer of free ID theft protection. There’s no harm in waiting a week or two while all that shakes out.
- Get a copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com and mark your calendar to get another one in about three months.
- Be on the lookout: Watch your mail for anything suspicious. Check your bank accounts at least weekly for signs of fraud. Listen closely when applying for a loan or a government benefit for signs that someone else might be using your Social Security number. Get your annual Social Security benefits statement online and look for anything unusual.
- Consider putting a security freeze on all your accounts — the most serious but most proactive step you can take. But take this step with great care. If you plan to shop for a car loan or a home loan any time soon, you probably shouldn’t do this, because security freezes lock credit report files so no one — not even you — can open a new credit account in your name. Freezes also generally cost money (the rules vary by state; Trans Union has a grid showing you the varying fee levels by state and consumer criteria), and they can be a hassle, because when it comes time to get a mortgage or an auto loan, consumers sometimes don’t remember the procedure to “thaw” their reports.
If you think you have been affected by this or any other Identity Theft/Fraud occurence, please contact our office for a FREE copy of the booklet “Taking Charge – What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen”.