Are you concerned about the Equifax security breach? Based on the questions I’ve received, many folks are worried their personal information was compromised. Here are some action steps you can take to protect yourself. I hope you find them useful.
Here’s how to find out if you might be part of the breach
1) Equifax is offering a website equifaxsecurity2017.com where you can check to see if your data was compromised. Currently, the site does not give you a definite “yes”, but seems to let you know if your data was not breached.
2) Even if you are one of the lucky ones that was not affected, it is a good idea to check your credit at least once a year. You are entitled to a free credit report annually. You can go to annualcreditreport.com to order all 3 at one time.
3) When you get your reports, check for notifications to see if new credit applications have been filed on your behalf, and monitor your accounts for activity that is not yours. If you find anything, report it immediately.
4) Put a date on your calendar to order your credit report annually. Think of it as an annual fiscal checkup.
5) Request a credit freeze from all 3 bureaus. This restricts access to your credit report, which helps prevent other creditors accessing it to open up new accounts. This service can cost about $10, but will prevent anyone from opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment or buying insurance with your data. A “freeze” basically prevents other legitimate companies from accessing your report, such as those who need to check it as part of a loan application.
6) Going forward, consider signing up additional fraud protection. Companies like Lifelock, EZ Shield and Identity Guard go beyond typical credit freezing and alert services. Their monthly fee is approximately $10.00 per month. Their program provides address change verification, help cancelling or replacing lost credit cards, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards and insurance cards, plus a “restoration team” that helps correct any identity theft issues and black market website surveillance.
7) Alert your bank and companies overseeing any other financial accounts, and strengthen passwords with two-factor authentication (password and confirmation via phone number).
In addition to the 7 steps, be aware of phishing scams. A legitimate firm will never ask for a full social security number or driver’s license, and will not send random information requests by email or by phone. They should provide you with clear information to identify themselves. If they need your information, they should confirm your card number, zip code and one or two security questions.
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