Highly sensitive personal data and financial information were compromised in one of the largest data breaches in history. On September 7, 2017, Equifax revealed a breach of its systems. If you have a credit history, there is a good chance that you are one of the 145.5 million American consumers whose personal information was exposed. Names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and other sensitive information were all part of this breach.
Taking steps to protect your personal data is paramount. The exposure of Social Security numbers is an issue that cannot be remedied, even with time, unless you change your Social Security Number (http://bit.ly/2xVhBiE).
Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit https://identitytheft.gov to find out what to do. These are free annual reports. Pull these reports annually, and review them. Correct any mistakes or issues.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your accounts. A credit freeze makes it harder for an identity thief to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze offers a narrow scope of protection from future uses of your personal information. Fees associated with freezing your credit range from $3 to $10 per person per bureau, and you must initiate a freeze with all three credit bureaus for it to be effective.
Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize. If something is not right, contact your bank/card company immediately.
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 is actually you. An initial fraud alert lasts for 90 days and can be renewed.
Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to obtain a tax refund or a job. Make sure to file your taxes early — as soon as you have the tax information you need before a scammer can file a fraudulent return. Respond right away to letters from the IRS (https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/how-to-know-its-really-the-irs-calling-or-k...)
Be on the alert for scammers that use this security event to phish you for information under the guise of offering you protection. Also, note that attackers may not use these stolen credentials immediately. Because the Equifax breach included Social Security numbers, this information has an extended shelf life. Attackers may use this information for years to come.