Protect Yourself now from the Equifax Data Breach
Recently, Equifax announced that they experienced a security breach that put 143 million Americans at risk for identity theft.
Consumer information such as birth dates, social security numbers, credit card numbers and driver’s license information and other personal data could now be in the wrong hands. So, how do you know if you are at risk? The bottom line is that you may not know for sure if your information has been compromised as it may take months or even years for hackers to start using the information that they have gathered. However, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from the Equifax data breach or any other security data breach in the future so that you don’t end up with years or even a lifetime of credit and financial headaches.
Here are four things you should do now to protect yourself from the data breach:
Sign Up for Credit Monitoring and Fraud Alerts
One of the first things you should do is sign up for credit monitoring and fraud alerts on your accounts. With credit monitoring, you will see if there were any dip in your scores as well as any suspicious activity on your credit report such as a loan or credit card you didn’t’ apply for. Setting up fraud alerts will attach a warning alert on your credit report that will tell potential lenders that identity verification is needed. This will ensure that it is really you who is asking for a credit card or taking out a loan.
Freeze Your Credit Files
Freezing your credit files will prevent anyone applying for credit in your name. However, before freezing your credit files, there are some disadvantages, and a credit freeze will not protect you if you have already fallen victim to the Equifax breach. However, it could prevent further fraudulent activity. Just proceed with caution as a credit freeze may create delays and problems if credit is needed quickly. For example, if you are looking to buy a home or want to apply for a loan during the freeze period, most lenders will not extend credit until they check your credit file with the three major credit bureaus. If you want to make a purchase on credit or obtain a loan, you will have to unfreeze your credit, which can be very time-consuming, and fees may be involved.
Regularly Monitor Your Bank Accounts and Credit Cards
It’s important to make sure you open your bank account and credit card statements to review all activity. If you have created online accounts, you can view the activity in real-time. If you have not created an online account for your credit cards and bank accounts, doing so will help you get faster access to activity rather than waiting for the next statement to come in the mail. If you see anything suspicious or any charges to your credit cards or bank accounts that you did not authorize, contact your bank and credit card company immediately to report it.
Update Your Account Passwords
You may have been using the same password since 1997 because it’s easy to remember, however, you could be putting yourself at risk for easy identity theft. In order to protect yourself from any security breaches to prevent identity theft, change your passwords to be long, strong and unique for each account that you hold. This may take some time to go through, but you don’t want to wait. The faster you get your password changes completed, the better protected you are.
If you think you may have been affected by the Equifax breach, contact all three major credit reporting agencies to issue a credit freeze on your account to prevent further ID theft. Filing a police report to show proof of fraudulent activity will be helpful in providing documentation to the creditors so they can investigate further on your behalf.