At the bottom of this post, see Experian breach information
provided by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
What you should do in response to the Equifax breach
While it can be filed under the tab, “too little, too late,” Equifax is offering a number of services for free to people, including credit monitoring. You can find information from Equifax at the website EquifaxSecurity2017.com. (Equifax originally indicated that taking part in the credit monitoring service would require consumers to drop any potential legal actions on the part of consumers. That clause was dropped after massive push-back by consumers and government agencies.)
1. Find out if your information is potentially at risk
Equifax has set up a website that allows consumers to determine if their information was potentially compromised. Click on the tab labeled Potential Impact. (Everyone we have asked has said they received the “potentially compromise” message.)
2. Sign up for credit monitoring
Equifax said it will provide free credit monitoring to all U.S. consumers, regardless of whether their information was potentially compromised. Since the service is free and it’s relatively easy to sign up, it appears to be a wise precaution, even if it’s a nuisance.
According to Consumer Reports, there are five services under the Equifax monitoring service, branded TrustedIDPremier.
- Getting a copy of your Equifax credit report.
- Credit monitoring and automated alerts of key changes to your credit report on any of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union.
- Scans suspicious websites for your Social Security number
- Up to $1 million worth of identity theft insurance to pay for out-of-pocket expenses if you’re a victim of identity theft
- The ability to put a freeze on your credit report.
3. Freeze your credit report
Take advantage of the ability to freeze your credit report. Freezing goes a step further than credit card monitoring and will prevent anyone from taking out a loan or a credit card in your name. Freezing your credit file is a good starting point if you think you have been affected. Be sure to strengthen your PIN. You can thaw your freeze every time you want to apply for new credit by using a personal identification number that the companies give you, which you absolutely should not lose, according to NYTimes.com reporter Ron Lieber.
4. Check Your Accounts
Even if you follow all these steps, you’ll still have to continue to monitor your own accounts for fraudulent activity, indefinitely. While there are fee-based ways to do this constantly, a less time-consuming and anxiety-provoking alternative is to check your credit reports for free every four months at annualcreditreport.com.
Ron Lieber recommends that you go beyond the Equifax and that, in some cases, require a payment. They put you in better control of personal data at the other two major consumer credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion.
Equifax Breach information from the Federal Trade Commission
If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.
Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.
There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
- Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection anytime you enter it. The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
- Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21, 2017 to enroll.
- You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
- Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
- Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
- File your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.