Protecting Yourself after the Large Equifax Hack
Cyber criminals have stolen 143 million credit records from Equifax, one of the three largest credit-reporting bureaus in North America. That means that your personal identifiable information (“PII”) – and that of millions of other people – may have been compromised. This includes your social security number, home addresses (past and present), and even your mother’s maiden name.
Hackers can use this information to pretend to be you and open up credit lines in your name. They can also use it to pass themselves off as legitimate individuals or businesses and trick you into giving them sensitive information, such as your bank account information.
Watch out for the following:
- Emails that claim to be from Equifax where you can check if your data was compromised – they could be phishing attempts.
- Emails that claim there is a problem with a credit card, your credit record, or other personal financial information.
- Any email that directs you to enter personal information (such as your social security number or a secure password to financial accounts) in order to verify something on their end – if you need to log in to your bank or credit card account, it’s always best to do it through the actual company website, not through an email.
- Calls from scammers that claim they are from your bank or credit union.
- Fraudulent charges on any credit card because your identity was stolen.
If you suspect your PII was stolen in the Equifax hack, here are four things you can do to help prevent identity theft:
- Sign up for credit monitoring (many companies provide this service, including Equifax, but we cannot recommend one over another).
- Freeze your credit files at the three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Remember that generally it is not possible to sign up for credit monitoring services after a freeze is in place. Advice on how to file a freeze is available on a state-by-state basis. For a limited time through October 10, 2017, Equifax has offered to waive their $10 fee for freezing your credit report.
- Check your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized activity.
- If you believe you may have been the victim of identity theft, learn more about protecting yourself. You can also call the ID Theft Center at 888.400.5530 for advice on how to resolve identify-theft issues. All the center’s services are free.
And remember – always think before you click!