By now you’ve heard about the massive data breach at Equifax which include the personal information of up to 143 million people. Although we have (sadly) grown accustomed to hearing about similar data breaches, like the ones at Target, Anthem, Yahoo or Home Depot, this one is much worse.
Here is what might have been stolen:
• Your name
• Your address
• Your phone number
• Your social security number
• Your credit card number
This type of data is more serious than having your credit card number stolen, because credit card companies offer a degree of protection and you can always change your credit card account number or cancel the card.
Having your name, address, phone number, and social security number stolen is a huge breach – because that information is still valuable to thieves years from now – not just today.
Another reason this breach is so much worse is the number of people impacted. 143 million – yikes!
What Does Equifax Recommend You Do?
Equifax recommends you sign up for their offer of free protection. They have even set up a website so you can see if you’re data was compromised.
You can go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the “Check Potential Impact” tab where you then submit your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. Then they will tell you if your data was compromised. (Unfortunately, the answer was yes when I tried it).
What Can You Do?
You can do a lot to protect yourself and your data online. Things to protect your identity:
• Review your bank and credit card transactions regularly. I personally view the balances across my accounts at least weekly, and can drill down if anything looks “off”. If your accounts are compromised, the faster you know the better. (And call your bank and credit card companies immediately!)
• Place fraud alerts on your credit reports. I signed up for a free year of a service like this after one of the other data breaches, and typically get an email that says “looks ok” about once a month.
• Check your credit report for suspicious activity. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report every 12 months via a website called AnnualCreditReport.com.
• Consider freezing your credit. This is more drastic measure, but a freeze will take your credit report out of circulation. So if someone attempts to take a loan out in your name, the lender will not be able to pull your credit report and therefore cannot extend credit. And if you need to take out a loan, you can contact the agency to temporarily lift the freeze.
Let me know if you’d like to discuss your options.