How To Protect Yourself From the Equifax Data Theft
September 12, 2017
Equifax, one of the big 3 credit reporting agencies in the US, recently disclosed that they were hacked and data on 143 million consumers was stolen. Since this affects just about all of us, here are seven easy steps that you can take to protect yourself:
1. Find out if you’re at risk.
Equifax has set up a quick and easy way to find out if you are one of the estimated 143 million consumers whose personal information is vulnerable to the breach. Go to https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/potential-impact/and follow the simple instructions to look up your record.
2. Get a credit report.
The odds are slim that there will be any malicious activity related to the recent Equifax breach, but it still makes sense to start by pulling a credit report from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They each offer one free credit report per person, per year.
3. Accept Equifax offer to monitor credit.
To help cushion the blow of the massive security breach, Equifax is offering consumers a year of free credit monitoring through its TrustedID service. Signing up for TrustedID does not limit your litigation options related to the breach.
4. Request fraud alerts.
Requesting fraud alerts from all three credit-reporting agencies will make it more difficult for anyone to create credit under your name with stolen information.
5. Install a security freeze on your credit.
Security freezes should be installed at all three agencies and could include an initial fee of up to $10. When you open new credit accounts you may have an extra hoop to jump through, but so will the bad guys if they try to open an account in your name.
6. Change your passwords.
Skip using “123456” or “qwerty” or “111111” or any of the other most common passwords in the world. It is safe to assume a lot of people are ignoring this most basic protection. In addition to changing passwords often, experts advise making them as complex as possible, as long as possible and including double authentication whenever possible. I have my passwords managed with a program called LastPass which makes having a different password for each website a snap. All I remember is one master password.
7. Monitor all financial statements.
It is always a good practice to closely check all financial, credit card and banking statements for any unusual activity. Hackers will sometimes make a small transaction on a hacked account just to see if it is active before committing more extensive fraud.
Good luck with this.