If you have a credit report, you may be one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies. Below are steps you can take to help protect your information from being misused. Be sure to consult with your financial advisor to determine what actions are most appropriate for your particular circumstances.
Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com – Find out if your information was exposed. Click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you are on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you have been affected by this breach. Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date.
Check your credit reports – You can check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—for free—by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you do not recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your files – A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze will not prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you do not recognize.
Place a fraud alert on your account – 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 really is you.
File your taxes early – File your taxes as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS about possible identity theft.