You may have heard that Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, had a breach that potentially compromised sensitive information of 143 million American consumers. Hackers have stolen Social Security, driver’s license, and more than 200k credit card numbers. Because this data consisted of personal information, it increases the chances of identity theft.
Consumers need to be proactive after being hacked. Here are six tips to help protect your identity, credit score, and personal information.
- Enroll in Equifax’s identity theft protection and credit file monitoring program
Visit Equifax’s enrollment page to activate your identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services. This process will reveal whether your personal information has been affected by the hacking.
It only takes three steps:
- Select “Begin enrollment” and enter your last name and last six digits of your Social Security Number. After this, the system will let you know whether the incident impacted your personal information.
- Select “Enroll.” You receive an enrollment date. Record the information to remind yourself to register on that date.
- On or after the date, go to this Equifax page to enroll. Enrollment must be completed by Nov. 21.
For more information, visit the Cybersecurity Incident FAQ page.
- Check your credit reports
If you’re still not certain if your data was affected, review your credit reports for suspicious activity. Everyone is guaranteed a free annual credit report from all three major consumer credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion.
Here’s what to look for when studying the reports:
- Late payments on debts you don’t recognize.
- New accounts you didn’t open.
- Any other suspicious activity.
If you find anything that doesn’t look right, contact the credit card company’s fraud department immediately. While you are not responsible for fraudulent charges, it’s critical you quickly report the issue. Also, follow FTC’s guide on how to manage identity theft.
- Place a credit freeze
Even if everything looks clean, you must be proactive in protecting your credit. Freezing your credit will help prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name.
To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus at these numbers:
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1 888 397 3742
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
It typically takes a few minutes to complete this automated process. Write down your PINs and keep them in a secure place.
- Set a fraud alert
Establishing fraud alerts is is another preemptive step you can take to prevent identity thieves from opening accounts using your identity. In setting a fraud alert, credit card companies will require verification of your identity before opening a new account.
To set a fraud alert, contact one of the following credit card bureaus to request an initial fraud alert. Once set, it lasts 90 days, and then you’ll need to renew it after that.
Call just one of the following to set a fraud alert and repeat in 90 days:
- Equifax: 1-888-766-0008
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
- Help family complete the process
You can either do the process for your family or let them know what to do. Some people aren’t comfortable with using computers and online resources to complete these steps.
- Be on alert at tax time
At this time, it’s unknown how the hacking will affect consumers. Experts recommend staying alert during tax season as identity thieves may try to use stolen Social Security Numbers to file fraudulent tax returns to obtain refunds.