A total of 143 million American consumers’ personal information was stolen through the Equifax data breach. Hackers infiltrated data systems that included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers.
It is important to act now. Here are some suggestions and steps to help protect your family and yourself from financial scams and the Equifax data breach:
- Visit the Equifax Website. The Equifax site offers, useful, information that updates consumers on the breach, while providing additional steps that can be taken to be safe.
- Potential Impact. Visit the Equifax potential impact page to see if you are a victim of the breach. This site will let you to see if Equifax has documented that your information has been exposed. Use a secure computer as you will need to enter your social security number.
- New Credit Card. If you believe your credit card number was compromised demand a new replacement card. Always and immediately report your lost or stolen credit cards.
- Credit Reports. Check your credit reports and see if anyone is trying to get a loan or credit card in your name. By visiting annualcreditreport.com, you can check your credit reports at the following major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It is important to remember that activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
- Credit Freeze. Put a “freeze” on your credit. A credit freeze makes it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name. A credit freeze does not protect your current accounts. A credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report, making it more difficult for fraudsters to obtain your identity. A freeze is initiated directly with each of the credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
- Fraud Alert. A fraud alert on your credit report forces creditors to take additional steps and have other information to verify your identity before attempting to open new credit and making it more difficult for someone to steal your identity and get credit in your name. Unlike a credit freeze, you only need to contact one of the credit reporting agencies to issue a fraud alert.
- Passwords. Change your online passwords to all financial accounts and to your emails. Once a fraudster gains access to an account, they will often test your passwords against all other accounts. Changing online passwords to all your financial accounts and email is time consuming. However, committing to this action now may avoid identity theft. Change your passwords regularly.
- Credit and Debit Activity. Check your debit and credit card activity on a regular basis and look for unauthorized activity. You can minimize the damage and take proactive steps to prevent additional harm by reporting any unauthorized activity immediately.
- Unsolicited Emails. Do not open any unsolicited emails from “Equifax” unless you have recently created an account. Equifax has stated that they will not be sending any emails to consumers concerning the breach.
- Be on the alert. Look-out for phishing calls, unknown emails or any suspicious solicitations. Avoid opening attachments or unknown links contained in emails and never give out personal information over the phone. If you did not initiate the contact then be wary of the contact.
- Personal and Financial Info. Never send personal or financial information by unsecured email.
- Tax Return. File your tax return early! Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund. File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information so you can get to the IRS before the hackers. Equally important, open and respond immediately to all letters from the IRS.
For more information visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft page to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.