How to Keep Yourself Safe After the Equifax Breach
Nearly 150-million people had their data exposed in the Equifax data breach -- that’s half of the population in the United States. Two weeks after the July breach was revealed, experts are now saying that the hack was so massive, the thieves were able to steal some 200-thousand Visa and Mastercard numbers in one fatal swoop.
The credit reporting agency said Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses were stolen in the hack that spanned from the middle of May to July. The hack is already being called one of the largest in US history -- and coming from a firm that holds such sensitive identifying information, the ramifications could be huge to consumer credit as well as people’s personal lives.
So what can you do to keep yourself safe? Well, there are some proactive measures you can take to keep your credit and identity safe, and even stop thieves in their tracks.
Check if your account was affected The first thing you should do if you haven’t already, is head to the Equifax website and find out if your information was affected. By giving them some of your personal information, they’ll be able to tell you if you have been impacted by the breach.
Enroll in credit monitoring Even if you weren’t affected by the hack, any Equifax consumer is now eligible for a free year of credit monitoring for all three major reporting agencies, social security number monitoring, a credit report lock and a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. But, please be sure to reach each policy carefully as you move forward so you understand what is covered.
Get your credit score now See where your credit is at now by requesting your free credit report from the three major reporting firms -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get one every 12 months, and now is a better time than ever to see where your credit is at.
Start monitoring your accounts carefully This is especially important for people who have automatic payments set up and might not look at the specifics of their bill every month. Now, you should start closely monitoring your monthly bill to be sure you don’t end up paying for something you’ve never purchased. You also need to start monitoring if people are opening accounts you don’t know of, carefully check that all your personal information is correct on your accounts.
Set up a fraud alert This is one extra step that can prevent hackers and thieves can’t open accounts in your name. By setting up a fraud alert, credit card companies would have to verify the identity with more hoops for the opener to jump through than normal. Now, this doesn’t mean it stops all thieves, but it can greatly increase your chances of stopping one from opening an unauthorized account in your name.
Finally, consider placing a freeze on your credit This will make it exponentially more difficult for a thief to open an account in your name. When you set up a credit freeze, you lock your credit reports with a PIN that only you now. By putting one in place, a thief can’t open a new account in your name, however, if they are already in one of your accounts they can cause damage there.
The moral here is that you have to be in-the-know about your credit. Closely monitoring your credit score and your accounts is something that is beneficial for your financial health, anyways. So even if you weren’t affected, these are great proactive steps you can take to keep your credit and identity safe.