Nearly half of the country’s population was affected by the recent breach of Equifax, the consumer credit reporting agency that collects driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers (SSN), and credit card numbers. Hackers gained access to the information of 143 million individuals. While the investigation into the cause of the breach will be ongoing, the initial belief is that a third party and/or an employee is at fault.
There are steps to take to ensure your information is not at risk.
- First, find out if your information has been exposed by going to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Click the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your SSN. Make sure you are on a secure computer and network connection when you do this. You will then find out if you’ve been affected by the breach. Even if it says you are not impacted, keep in mind that at this point, the accuracy is not 100% verifiable and it may be safer to assume your information was accessed.
- Check your credit reports for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you see any accounts or activities that are not familiar, your identity may be at risk. Check IdentityTheft.gov to find out how to proceed.
- Consider freezing your credit files. This will prevent someone from opening a new account using your information (though it won’t help against any existing accounts). Alternatively, you can create a fraud alert on your files to inform creditors that your identity may have been stolen and to make sure anyone opening an account in your name is actually you.
- Closely watch your bank account and credit cards for any suspiscious activity.
- Strengthen all your financial passwords with two-factor authentication, such as getting password confirmation via text or phone call.
- Be aware of phishing scams. You may receive emails from what looks like Equifax or another company saying they want to help, but keep in mind that credit companies should never ask for driver’s license numbers or full SSNs (they may ask for the last 4 digits). They should verify your identity with your credit card number and security questions.