In a recently revealed breach, 143 million Americans may have had their personal information exposed.
Equifax, one of the nation's three major credit reporting agencies, reported a massive data breach lasting several months. Hackers were able to access people's names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers of 209,000 people and dispute documents containing personally identifying information of 182,000 people.
If you have any type of credit product such as a credit card or mortgage, there's a good chance your information is compromised. It's best to learn all you can about this data breach and take the proper steps toward protecting yourself against future damage.
Here at Fort Lee Federal Credit Union, we're ready to help by providing you with clear instructions on some steps you can be taking now.
1) Find out if your information was exposed.
Visit equifaxsecurity2017.com and click on the "Potential Impact" tab. Enter your last name along with the last six digits of your Social Security number to find out if you've been affected.
Since your SSN is sensitive information, complete this step only on a secure computer that uses an encrypted network connection. You'll also find easy access to frequently asked questions about the breach on the Equifax site.
2) Sign up for protective services.
All U.S. consumers are being offered a year of complimentary credit monitoring and other services through the Equifax's TrustedID product.
As another option, Fort Lee Federal Credit Union also offers ID Theft Shield, a credit-monitoring solution to help you fight identity theft. For a small monthly fee, this program gives early warning of activity on your credit report. Since credit report changes can be an early sign of identity theft, early detection can help you catch problems quickly to minimize losses.
3) Place a credit freeze or a fraud alert on your files.
If your information has been exposed, consider placing a credit freeze with all three credit bureaus. This will make it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name, though it won't stop a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. Or, instead of a freeze, you can place a fraud alert on your files, warning creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft. This alerts them to verify if someone seeking credit in your name is really you.
Even if your information was not exposed by the breach, it's always a good idea to monitor your credit card and financial accounts for charges you don't recognize.
4) File your taxes early.
If your SSN was accessed in the Equifax breach, it's best to file your taxes as soon as you possibly can to avoid tax theft come tax time. Also, be sure to respond immediately to any letters you receive from the IRS.
The Equifax breach may be one of the worst the US has ever seen, but by taking the proper steps toward protecting yourself, you can minimize potential damage.