If you have a credit history, you may very well be affected! Equifax, one of the nation’s major credit reporting agencies, recently reported that personally identifiable information for as many as 143 million people were exposed in a data breach that lasted from mid-May through July. Information included names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and other documents. The breach affected not only individuals in the U.S. but also Canada and the United Kingdom.
To determine whether you were impacted, you can go to the Equifax website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on Potential Impact, and enter your last name and last 6 digits of your social security number. If you’re in the impacted group, you can enroll in free credit reporting services for a year, and have until November 21, 2017, to enroll.
IT security expert Brian Krebs suggests taking further steps, including filing a security freeze on your account with all four major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis) which would block any potential creditors from being able to view your credit file unless you agree to “unfreeze” your file. This prevents ID thieves from obtaining any new lines of credit in your name. More information is available from this article.
All consumers should check their credit reports periodically to ensure the information is correct. You have the right to obtain one report from each credit agency once per year at no charge and can do so by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. This is a government-mandated site. Beware of the similar-sounding freecreditreport.com, which is not actually free and will try to sell you credit monitoring services.
Another suggestion is to opt out of pre-approved credit offers, either for 5 years or permanently. Call 1-800-5-OPT-OUT (1.888.567.8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com to learn more. If you want to opt out permanently, you will need to return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form available once you submit your request.
We’re all ultimately responsible for the security of our own identity and financial records. Take the time necessary to monitor your records in order to protect yourself.