Last week, credit-reporting bureau, Equifax, confirmed a massive cyber security incident, which potentially compromised the personal information of about 143 million U.S. consumers. That means that the chances you are affected are pretty high.
Equifax, one of the three major credit bureaus, lost control of customer data that included Social Security numbers, home addresses, credit card numbers, drivers license numbers and birth dates.
WERE YOU AFFECTED?
Even if you don’t think you’re a customer of Equifax, there’s a strong possibility they still have your data. As a credit reporting agency, Equifax gets information from credit card companies, banks, lenders, and retailers to help it determine a person’s credit score.
To find out if your data has been compromised, use the Equifax Impact Finder. There have been reports that this tool is less than accurate, so at this point, we suggest that any person with a credit history take action as if they were affected.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?
CHECK YOUR CREDIT REPORTS: You can view your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three big agencies once every 12 months. Review it closely for unauthorized accounts or any mistakes.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT: One of the most reliable ways to prevent someone from opening credit cards in your name is to place what’s called a “credit freeze.” A freeze stops thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in your name, but it also prevents you from opening new accounts. So, each time you apply for a credit card, mortgage or loan, you need to lift the freeze — with the PIN you got when you froze your credit — a few days beforehand
. To freeze your credit, contact each of the credit bureaus using these phone numbers:
SET A FRAUD ALERT: A fraud alert is another way to make it hard for identity thieves to open accounts in your name. When you set a fraud alert, credit card companies will be required to verify your identity before opening an account. That, combined with the credit freeze, is a great way to keep your credit secure. To set a fraud alert, contact just one of the credit card bureaus and ask for an initial fraud alert. Once the alert is in place, it will last 90 days. After that, you’ll have to renew it. Here are the appropriate phone numbers for the bureaus (remember, just call one):